Clint Eastwood has directed some fairly epic movies. Million Dollar Baby and Gran Turino are probably the first films that come to mind for most people, but he’s also directed Letters from Iwo Jima, Jersey Boys, and more. American Sniper is another film that will go as one of Eastwood’s best. It’s already doing well in the midst of awards season, and it won’t be surprising if it takes home an Oscar or two. However, despite how good the movie is, it’s definitely not a film for everyone.
If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan, or the two HBO pseudo-sequels (Band of Brothers and The Pacific), you have a general idea of what to expect from American Sniper. While the previously mentioned film and TV shows chronicled World War II, American Sniper covers the war in Iraq following 9/11. It’s not quite as gruesome as Saving Private Ryan, but the realism depicted in the film gives moviegoers a true taste of modern-day war. There’s a lot of death and a moderate amount of brutality, so be warned.
One thing American Sniper does that you don’t get in the Tom Hanks-fueled war epics is that we get to see how legendary sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) handled his personal life between tours and after retirement. Most people have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and it’s something that a lot of soldiers face when they return home from war. It’s a very significant part of American Sniper and we get to really see how it impacts Chris Kyle.
Bradley Cooper is Chris Kyle. This is arguably Cooper’s best performance to date. You don’t see Bradley Cooper at all. You see Chris Kyle and only Chris Kyle, or at least what audiences are meant to believe Chris Kyle was like. If you’ve seen any interview clips with the real Chris Kyle, it does seem as though Cooper nailed it. Either way, it’s a stellar performance from Cooper and it carries the film.
Debbie Kyle (Elise Robertson) gives you an idea of what the family back home is going through. While Robertson doesn’t put on the acting showcase we see from Cooper, the emotion is there. You get a great sense of what the family had to put up with and the journey to get back to normality. You also get a sense of camaraderie from the troops that Kyle served with overseas. Everything comes together almost perfectly.
The only real downside to the film comes in some of the editing choices. While combat is clear and easy to decipher, there are a few scenes that completely take you out of the film. There’s one scene in which Kyle is holding his newborn baby, but the baby looks like a doll. It’s so unrealistic that it removes the sense of realism the film has going for it. During the big climax of the film, there’s one shot that uses CG effects to enhance what you’re seeing on-screen. Unfortunately, the effects look somewhat cheap and end up lessening the impact of the scene instead of enhancing it.
If you’re not overly picky these two scenes won’t have much of a negative impact on the film. For people who see effects-driven films regularly, it may remove some of the realism from the movie. Overall, this is an epic telling of an American war hero. Anyone in the military will likely find something to connect with here. Those who have not been in the armed services will still get one of the most realistic depictions of modern warfare that we’ve seen in a big-budget film.
American Sniper:[usr 4.5]
About American Sniper
Synopsis: Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Jason Hall, Chris Kyle
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Runtime: 132 Minutes
Releases: January 16th, 2015