Thursday, January 15, 2015

American Sniper - Review

American Sniper - Review

Starring Bradley Cooper and with a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes Director Clint Eastwood tells the story of Navy Seal Sniper Chris Kyle aka "American Sniper," aka “The Legend”, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with his roof top mission of protecting his fellow soldiers in Iraq. The film is also about how he and probably many others like him who returned home in spite of an abundance of healing love of family and friends could not help them leave the war behind. War, even for the most honorable, noble and decent men and women still quietly ravages their very being. Sometimes manifested with the more obvious clinical symptoms of PTSD and other times stealthy quietly with the numbers of 110 over 70. Their veins, their minds and their souls get unintentionally twisted and as result even the slightest sound or look or face or noise can all too readily put them back in places they thought they had left behind.

Initially the film starts out with a pace so fast it felt as if Eastwood wanted to tell Chris’s story in leaps, bounds and giant spades. Also, Bradley Texas accent early on seemed at times hard to understand. But around the 60 minute mark the film settles down quite well to create a genuine raw and realistic atmosphere of human tension, human grit and a truly unnerving depiction of all the dirty aspects of war. This films makes it clear war has never been nor will it ever be glamourous work.

In a lot of ways Eastwood draw upon his basic theme in his Best Picture winning film “Unforgiven”. To take a quote from that central character William Munny, “American Sniper reminds us here as well that “It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have”.

American Sniper is many things. As a theme of war, it is blunt, effective and troubling. From a human perspective it also about confidence, intensity and emotional vulnerability. From Chris Kyle’s personal story it is about family, Texas, gun culture and Christianity. Ultimately, the film is a tribute to his warrior sacrifice and a lament for war.

The politics of the Iraq war in this film are entirely absent, which is a bit of political statement in its own right. No mention of any politicians are ever invoked. But in the end the film is about a man’s life as well a tale of countless many other lives of good people who went to war to do the right thing. 

My one minor issue with the film is with the Iraqi fighters they fought. Eastwood does not make much effort to make them anything beyond just being the bad guys. I get they were the enemy, but a few scenes could have been given to tell their perspective – their story on why they believed they needed to fight against the Americans.

Technically, some of the fire fights chorography were truly haunting and brutal to watch with extended battle scenes that seem to last far longer than anyone could ever imagine that all the while were probably true in every bloody moment.

Bradley Cooper richly deserves his Oscar nomination as best Actor here as he manages to throw away that natural charm of his without suppressing it completely. He rather adroitly manages to be both tough and sweet, a loyal friend and husband and honorable but no saint.

American Sniper is not the very best movie I have seen this year but it certainly felt like one of the better films I have seen nonetheless. And with a level of intimacy of Chris Kyle’s personal story that I really felt, I enjoyed this latest Eastwood effort very, very much.

3 - 3/4 Stars

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