Clint Eastwood has been immersed in a streak of lackluster efforts since 2004’s Oscar winning Million Dollar Baby. The 84 year old actor/director has spent much of the last decade exploring different subject matters including multiple biopics, many of which were valiant efforts, but Eastwood has struck gold with this war drama based on the life of decorated Navy Seal Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper leads this powerful film which shows the struggles of our soldiers who risk their lives every day on the ground in Iraq, a depiction reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. The most lethal sniper in US history takes center stage as we are taken to the front lines of the Iraqi war.
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) didn’t always want to be a Navy SEAL, in fact, the plan was to grow old being a cowboy in his home state of Texas, but sometimes life has a way of nudging us in another direction. After visiting a local recruiting office in Odessa, TX, the decision was made to go to Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL school and try his luck at becoming one of the US governments elite soldiers. Off to Coronado, CA where he would not only begin the next chapter in his life, a place where he would meet his future wife Taya (Sienna Miller). After the World Trade Center was attacked, the couple realized that the time was nearing for Chris’s deployment. Soon after their marriage Chris and his SEAL team were on the ground in Iraq.
Chris quickly became known as “The Legend” as his skills as a sniper were revered by his fellow soldiers. The total of confirmed kills would continue to rise as the war began to heat up and the legend would continue to grow, so much so that Chris would become public enemy number one to the insurgents in Iraq. A rivalry of sorts would begin with a sniper from Syria named Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), a gun for hire who begins to take a personal interest in the Chris. With each mission, a little more of Chris’ psyche would be lost to the war and the rivalry with Mustafa would become more personal. After each tour, Chris would return home to his wife and over the course of time would welcome two beautiful children into this world, but it was always the battlefield which would call him back. Over the course of ten years, Chris Kyle would successfully completing four tours in Iraq, a place that would become more home to him than his own. As the war on terror is a never ending war, the question becomes; will Chris find his way back home to his family or will he die with his brothers battling to protect his country?
Clint Eastwood faithfully depicts the struggles of war from not only the standpoint of the soldiers on the ground, but also the families awaiting their return. Eastwood has a true gift of putting the emotional toll on display and has picked the right actors to achieve his vision. The visuals of each battle are a testament to the director as well as his cinematographer Tom Stern. The first half of the film is sensational, but the movie starts to fade towards the final chapter of the film as it tries to switch gears, but the film as a whole is very strong.
American Sniper is a tour de force for Bradley Cooper. From beginning to end, the actor is mesmerizing as Chris Kyle and achieves his best performance to date. The actors transformation to a killing machine is captivating and should lead to Cooper’s third Oscar nomination. Sienna Miller shines as Chris Kyle’s wife. Her portrayal is so genuine that every scene she validates the struggle of being the wife of a deployed soldier. The chemistry between Cooper and Miller is essential to the story being successful and they are sensational.
Overall, American Sniper is a well made and beautifully acted film that will wow audiences and no doubt cause a heighten sense of patriotism. Oscar season is in full swing and American Sniper should be right there in the hunt for gold.
4 out of 5
After Credit Scene?
No. But footage of the real Chris Kyle during the credits