Wednesday, February 18, 2015

American Sniper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Sam Jaeger
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: R

Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes

This film demands to be discussed. Clearly there have been mixed responses about the movie - is it pro war? Is Michael Moore speaking out against it just to hear himself talk? But anyone who watches Clint Eastwood's latest masterpiece can agree that it's incredibly moving. Saying it's a powerful film is a severe understatement. You've all seen the trailer. Just prepare for about 2 hours of that same level of intensity. Even the closing credits were played sans music - everyone was silent leaving the theatre. This film is a painful and powerful reminder of those brave enough to serve our country. I'm thankful for those people, and don't think to recognize them often enough. (On a personal note, Cooper gained about 35 pounds for this role, and though he's never made my "list," after seeing him as such a beefcake, all I can say is YUM.)

"American Sniper" is based off Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's autobiography. Cooper fearlessly portrays this American hero. You don't see a trace of the man who charmed us in "The Hangover" or cracked us up in "Wedding Crashers" here. Cooper sheds his Hollywood playboy image and gives the best performance of his career. We meet Kyle as a child, when he first shoots a gun with his dad and comes to his brother's defense in a playground fight. Though his heart was after the Rodeo, his drive and patriotism soon led him into the Armed Forces, where he endured intense training to become a Navy SEAL, and ultimately the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.
Chris Kyle and Bradley Cooper
Photo Courtesy PopCultureBlog - Dallas News
Sienna Miller plays his beautiful and tortured wife Taya, who marries him before his first tour, and sticks with him and their two kids during all four of his tours, approximately 1,000 days in Iraq. The emotional strain on their marriage builds each time he returns home. It seems he feels more comfortable in war, making a pit stop at a bar before he goes home to his family. He admits he feels he could do and should do more for his country, while his wife argues that it's time to let someone else try.

Many scenes will make you squirm, most notably one with a power drill. The sandstorm scene makes it nearly impossible to see anything and you zone out, a clear indicator that Kyle has also zoned out and is ready to return home for good. There is a nice balance of romance/home life and action, but once the action scenes get going, they're almost sensory overload.

Why Clint Eastwood wasn't nominated for Best Director is beyond me. An old curmudgeon he might be (and I would know, as one of his co-stars), he's one of the best directors of our time. And in this role, Bradley Cooper has created his legacy.

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