Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Biography, War
Run Time: 2 hours 14 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman
Based on the book by Chris Kyle
Written by Jason Hall (Paranoia, Spread)
At the ripe old age of 84, Clint Eastwood is one of the hardest working directors in Hollywood these days, churning out movies at about the same pace as Woody Allen (roughly one per year over the past two decades). Although he has directed several films exploring the U.S. Military (Heartbreak Ridge, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima to name a few), he delivers a successful direct hit with his latest effort, American Sniper (opening today.)
It tells the story of real-life Navy S.E.A.L., Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who is shown being inspired by the horrors of 9/11 to join the service. He is an exceptional talent as a sniper, and soon he is deployed to Iraq, where he became one of the best snipers ever. There have been countless war movies, but few told through the long-distance lens of a sniper's scope. So instead of a bloody front-line war epic, we are instead treated to a virtue rarely exhibited in such films: Patience.
Slow and steady wins the race, and for Kyle, it was a practice to live by. He recorded what is thought to be over 255 kills during his several tours in Iraq. It's impossible to calculate the amount of lives saved. It's really a different game, to sit, wait and fire, sometimes on women and children...anyone who may pose a threat to the front lines.
But when not experiencing the hellish reality of war inside Iraq, American Sniper feels awfully conventional. War changes people.
People at home tend to move on and/or not be able to relate to those who have seen battle. Around the edges, this one feels like many other war movies we've already seen.
Bradley Cooper does a tremendous job at portraying this war hero, and when he first meets his future wife Taya Renae (Sienna Miller), their chemistry cackles with energy. But Miller is soon thrust into the dignified but familiar role of the stay-at-home wife who worries from afar about her brave soldier, never developing into anything more than cliche.
The movie ends unexpectedly for those not familiar with Chris Kyle's story, but some sort of explanation would have made for a more satisfying conclusion to those not in the know. Still, American Sniper works and is a solid film, showing us an all-important facet of military combat, the likes of which few movies have ever explored so effectively.
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