- on Friday, 05 December 2014 16:52
- by Frank Wilkins
Where have you been, Mr. Eastwood? We missed you.
Thought consigned to the dustbin of once relevant filmmakers, Clint Eastwood comes roaring back with American Sniper, the true story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American military history.
And not a minute too soon. Not since 2009’s Gran Torino has the octogenarian filmmaker been anywhere near the top of his game. In fact, since that film, his exponentially escalating slide has been nothing short of baffling and actually quite sad – our musings overcome by thoughts of who would be the poor studio sap picked to tell the Hollywood legend that it is time to throw in the towel.
But alas, with American Sniper he is back, and though the film isn’t without its faults, it does remind us that ol’ “squint eyes” still has a few bullets left in the chamber.
Bradley Cooper plays Kyle, who grew up in Texas before amassing a whopping 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probables over four tours of duty in Iraq. Cooper nails the reckless bravado of the Texas cowboy and even gets the Texas accent right – although it often comes off as more East Texas than West where he grew up the son of a church deacon who preached the three categories of people (sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs) and the importance of protecting our loved ones. A trait that most certainly shaped his son’s extreme desire to help his fellow warriors at all costs.
As the film opens, Kyle is riding horses on the professional rodeo circuit and plowing through girlfriends like a bronco through helpless riders. He eventually settles down with Taya (Sienna Miller), whom he meets in a bar, and the pair are soon married. Prompted by the horrific events of the 9/11 attacks, Kyle joins the military and puts to use his keen shooting skills as a Navy SEAL sniper deployed to Iraq.
Clearly not the type to talk openly about his feelings (these gung-ho, oorah types rarely are), Kyle’s marriage feels the strains as he slowly becomes a man more and more detached with each subsequent tour. “I need you to be human again,” his wife tells him, but as we’ve seen play out in real life, we feel sorrow knowing he never will be the same man she married.
While a bit underdeveloped, these home front scenes in which Cooper always manages to masterfully depict the horrific toll his time in country has taken on Kyle (usually without even uttering a word), are interspersed throughout the fast-paced action sequences and provide a nice contrast as well as a much-needed moment to take a breath. Eastwood’s battle scenes are genuinely tense and thrilling, but thankfully never fall prey to the annoying jump-cut or shaky-cam technique so many filmmakers use these days. Eastwood is old school and his practicality is much appreciated here. The fog of war and life-and-death decisions our snipers face every day are ever-present and add a juicy bit of moral gray area to chew on as we watch bodies tear apart and heads explode.
Jason Hall’s script, based on Kyle and co-author Scott McEwen’s book titled American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, works in a thread about Kyle’s Iraqi nemesis, a fellow sniper known as Mustafa, who picks off American soldiers while seeking the $80,000 bounty on Kyle’s head.
Despite his fame and notoriety as a true American hero, the real Chris Kyle is said to have a been a very unassuming and humble person. Cooper feels fully committed to his Kyle, and though not as meaty as some of his more recent turns, his performance here is unquestionably instrumental in aiding Eastwood’s re-emergence as a relevant director. Their end result is a very strong film that carries a weighty emotional resonance while also touching on the real-world issues our country faces as thousands of our warriors return home from hell.
MPAA Rating: R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.
Runtime: 134 mins
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Jason Hall
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes
Genre: War | Military | Drama
Tagline: 150 kills made history
Memorable Movie Quote: "Just imagine putting a bunch of crazy musicians together and telling them to go have a good time together."
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Official Site: http://www.americansnipermovie.com/
Release Date: December 25, 2014
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. But there was much more to him than his skill as a sharpshooter.
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world.
Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the spirit of the SEAL creed to “leave no one behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya Renae Kyle (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
No details available.