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Review - American Sniper

By midlandsmovies, Jan 11 2015 10:42AM

American Sniper (2015) Dir. Clint Eastwood

After the misstep of the ‘musical’ Jersey Boys, hot-shot director Eastwood returns to murky biographical Americana akin to J. Edgar and Changeling that saw him receive strong critical acclaim for a no-nonsense and non-judgmental approach to his storytelling.

The film is based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography (subtitled ‘The Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History’) and we get a bulked up Bradley Cooper as the Navy Seal travelling to Iraq on various tours of duty as a sniper whose increasing kill count turns him into an armed forces celebrity.

This is contrasted with a return to his home life and pregnant wife Taya (Sienna Miller), where haunted scenes of death and killing distance himself from his family. He persuades her he is defending “freedom” yet avoids telling her about any of the execution of men, women and children he witness and takes part in.

Eastwood’s simple and unobtrusive directing style focuses the film on the story as he calibrates the contrasts between the violent male world of war and the quiet family melodrama back in the US. As the insurgents place a bounty on Kyle’s life (who is nicknamed “Legend” by his fellow soldiers) he faces no doubt that he is defending the country from these barbaric terrorists.

As he fights to be a good spouse, Cooper plays Kyle with a remote haze, constantly keeping his sights on the war even when he has returned home. Miller is impressive as the impassioned wife trying to be a part of Kyle’s isolated world but it is she who keeps her finger on the trigger of their family life. She reminds Kyle of his family duties aside from his military ones as Kyle struggles to leave his disturbed experiences back there.

A subplot involving an equivalent Iraqi assassin seems a leftover from another film – a way of giving the film a pointed Hollywood villain – but doesn’t distract too much from the introspective character study Eastwood presents.

With a narrative that never loses velocity and impressive but realistic action sequences, American Sniper is a howitzer of a war film, one that balances the fine line of the trauma faced by returning soldiers and their brief of fulfilling the duty they have signed up for.

Joining The Hurt Locker (2008) as one of the best modern war films, the movie shows the pointless loss of life and the physical and psychological damage thrust upon those involved, plus a virtuoso performance from Cooper, who fights insurgents and himself throughout.

8/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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