10 feb. 2015

American Sniper (8/10): Chris Kyle gets the Eastwood treatment.

“I'm willing to meet my Creator and answer for every shot that I took.”

Clint Eastwood’s latest film, American Sniper, is a carefully constructed character study of one of America’s deadliest snipers during the War in Iraq. Unlike most war films this isn’t an anti or pro-war movie; it is a film focusing on a character who happens to be a soldier. Bradley Cooper is in nearly every scene of the movie and everything revolves around him. We really don’t get familiar with any of the other characters in the movie because he is the main subject of the film. Sienna Miller plays his wife and she is the only other character in the film who has any depth beside him. Eastwood is doing what he does best here, which is focusing on the narration and telling the story of this unique man who had more than 150 confirmed kills during his service as a Navy SEAL. Some may read this film as patriotic, but I think it doesn’t really take a side on this issue and rather simply focuses on a man who acted upon the firm conviction that he was doing what was right. Having his character kill off a woman and a young child during the opening scene proves this point. It is a difficult decision, but Chris Kyle has no reservation about what he is doing because he is determined and is able to justify his own actions. The film then flashes back to Kyle’s adolescent years where he is taught by his father to be a protective man (to be a sheep dog that protects the sheep from the wolves). This is the key scene in the movie that becomes a metaphor of who Kyle will later become. That is why after watching the 9-11 attacks on TV he decides to join the army. This could’ve been cheesy and cliche, but I believed his character actually would act on such an impulse because it was the way he was raised. So without taking sides or judging this character, Eastwood is able to focus on his actions and later the consequences those decisions had in his life. He isn’t simply portrayed as a hero, he suffers PTSD and suffers consequences for his actions. This however is the weakest part of the film because the film sort of rushes the character to recovery and doesn’t take more time to dwell on that aspect of his life. American Snpier a solid character study with some good action scenes and a strong lead performance from Bradley Cooper.

Based on Chris Kyle’s autobiographical book, Jason Hall adapts a solid screenplay and walks the dangerous fine line of trying to force a point of view about the war on the audience. Focusing on the character allows it to steer away from that common and familiar take on war films. Bradley Cooper is the driving force of the movie and for the first time I actually forgot I was watching Bradley Cooper, and I believed he was the actual Chris Kyle. He downplays much of his performance and that is what made it more convincing. Sienna Miller is also great (she disappears like she did in Foxcatcher, and becomes the character). The rest of the cast really never get much to work with considering everything centers on the lead character. There is a thrilling confrontation between Kyle and an enemy sniper played by Sammy Sheik that is very interesting. The film has plenty of well choreographed action scenes and many thrills that keep us engaged. There is a great sandstorm action scene near the third act of the film that stands out. The action scenes are perhaps the most gripping thing about American Sniper, but a deeper exploration of the effects of the war on Kyle could’ve lifted this to another level. It is portrayed in a light and rushed way, but Cooper does his best to capture that inner tension. What American Sniper does best is tell the character’s story and let the audience make their own conclusion of wether or not he was a hero or a murderer. 

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