American Sniper (2014)

Yesterday, I watched the Oscar nominated Clint Eastwood movie, American Sniper. It stars Bradley Cooper as Navy Seal Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife, Taya. The movie serves as a window into the life of Chris Kyle, a sniper in the Navy with the highest number of confirmed kills.

American Sniper is a far cry from Eastwood’s stray into the musical genera, Jersey Boys, released earlier the same year… and that’s a good thing.

War, and the people who fight them, is one of Eastwood’s favorite topics and has certainly become his forte. This, I feel, is where the movie has its heart in showing the true cost of war, the human cost. For most of us, wars are fought on foreign soil, far away from our homes. We are never forced to face the horrors of war, and those who do often come home with a few reminders. Eastwood does a fine job expressing not only the horror or war its self, but how those directly affected by it can change and how those changes can be quite traumatic to a family. Eastwood has come along way as a director since his debut and is beginning to show more of a depth in the stories that he is telling. He will undoubtedly be remembered in the annals of history for his talent as a director rather than an actor.

Cooper’s performance is outstanding. In an Oscar race where three of the best actor nods are for performances in bio pics, cooper does not disappoint and truly deserved the nomination. He ditches the usual one dimensional persona he has played in the past, ie American Hustle, The Words, Silver Linings Playbook, and skyrockets himself in to the realm of stardom and has the potential to be come a true box office legend. The choices of actor and  director play together well and present Kyle as not only believable but relate-able and likeable as well. The character never comes across as larger than life or hyperbolic in any way. He refrains from playing the archetypal hero. Cooper’s Kyle is a man who was doing a job, one at which he happened to be quite good, that took its emotional toll. With each tour of duty, Kyle’s personality is changed, he becomes more and more withdrawn. The effects of his PTSD are subtly apparent.

The presentation of Kyle’s PTSD and how he deals with it is a wonderful apex in the movie of editing, acting, directing and sound. These moments that show Kyle enduring episodes of PTSD and the way they film is presented in order to allow the audience to gain clear inference into what he may be thinking really show the skill of the team behind this movie. If all parties worked in tandem like this throughout the entire film, it may have been a stronger contender for best picture. However, I preferred it this way as it presented contrast to Kyle’s home life and the life he led while in the war.

Miller’s portrayal of Taya, Kyle’s wife, also comes off quite as sincere. She plays someone who cannot relate to Kyle and his trauma. Her lack of understanding is a crucial aid for the viewers own ability to comprehend his/her own lack of understanding of PTSD and the people who live with it. This is apparent in several scenes. Her character also serves the purpose of keeping the viewer grounded in America. Her pregnancies serve to show the passing of time while kyle is in Iraq, where time seems to stand still. Her position also serves to show the viewer the fear that the family members of persons in service often endure.

Altogether, the film is a poignant reminder of how the cost of war is not always something that can be definitively quantified. I have hear a lot of people talking about how the film is propaganda, or that it glorifies the war, and I can only assume that these people either did not see the same movie as I did or they are seeing what they wanted to see. Eastwood paints a pretty neutral picture of war, the same way he did with Letters from Iwojima. Yes, there are ‘bad guys’ but the overall war isn’t shown as being a good or a bad thing, just something that happened and affected the lives of many people.

If you like war movies, If you like other Eastwood movies, (barring Jersey Boys) If you like well made bio pics, then this is the movie for you. Biopics don’t normally make it to the best picture category and we had three to choose from this year and one that almost made it. Of the four movies, it is difficult to pick a favorite, but American Sniper is defiantly worth the watch.

Check it out.

2.5 out of 4

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