Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
War dramas can be mind-numbing, generic, and full of sameness. With American Sniper, director Clint Eastwood pieces together a personal story of endurance, highlighted by a career-best performance by Bradley Cooper, that is nothing other than triumphant.
Chris Kyle is an American hero in every sense of the word. A Texas boy to the core, Kyle grew up with cowboy ambitions, only to fall victim to his personal convictions and patriotism in the light of terrorist attacks on American citizens worldwide. Kyle joined the ranks of the Navy SEALs in an effort to parlay his internal angers towards ultimate sacrifice. His leadership and incredible agility in the face of pain set him apart almost immediately. His natural talent at sharpshooting led him to the much-coveted role of sniper. After the September 11th attacks and the start of the War of Terror, Kyle would go on to become the deadliest sniper in American military history. His role in the war, however, was every bit internally and personally focused. Once he decides to end his career, it's these inward feelings that were masked by adrenaline on the battlefield that show face, beginning the actual war in his life and his family.
As Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper completely embodies every piece of Kyle's charisma, accent, and physical attributes. The swagger in even the way he stands evokes a sensible characterization, without ever feeling complacently overdone. The conviction in which he personifies every decision Kyle makes on and off the battlefield is what takes the film from standard war genre flick to personal exploration of a man and the effects of war.
Based on the autobiography of the same name by the real Chris Kyle, the narrative pieced together by Jason Hall in adapting the story allows for the personal commentary to outshine the glories of war. Eastwood, though, never lets up on the realities of battle, offering many harrowing, edge-of-your-seat moments worthy of any great action film. In telling a story about a real-life person, the master can make the audience forget the ending they already know.
With recent war films based on the efforts in play over the last decade, it's easy to write this one off as an overly conservative story of patriotism. Surely, cynics will voice their opinions about the film's seemingly pro-war and pro-gun commentary as being agenda-based, but the heart of the story is not about any of those things. It is, in actuality, a brutal story of identity, love, and togetherness.
Shot beautifully by Tom Stern, American Sniper is a worthy modern day American classic.
Runtime: 132 minutes