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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

American Sniper | Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Ben Reed, Sammy Sheik | Review

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5sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT Judy Thorburn

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5lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is EXCELLENT

 

American Sniper

Last year's film version of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Jersey Boys, was a major disappointment. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, who was the wrong man for the job. It was clear he was working in a genre that was out of his league and that he needs to stick with helming riveting and tense dramas that bares the intimate details the iconic director, now in his mid 80's, is known for.

Fitting that bill to a T, 'American Sniper', based on Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle's autobiographical New York Times best seller, chronicles Chris Kyle's success on the battlefield, and the repercussions on his psyche, and his personal life. It is Eastwood's latest film as director, and working from Jason Hall's taut screenplay, it is his best work since 2008's 'Gran Torino'.

In preparing for his role, Bradley Cooper packed on a reported 40 lbs, and adopted a convincing Texas drawl, to embody the persona of the real life, beefy Chris Kyle, who, with 160 confirmed kills was dubbed “The Legend”, and is considered the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. It was this extraordinary ability that caused the enemy to fear him, and his peers on the battlefield to revere him.

The film begins with Chris perched on a rooftop in Iraq, looking through the scope of his rifle, as he is forced to take down a young boy that was handed a grenade to kill nearby marines. Taking a life of a child was not something Chris relished nor took pride in, but needed to be done considering the circumstances, although it left an indelible mark on his psyche.

The story then flashbacks to Chris' childhood where his father (Ben Reed) is shown teaching him how to hunt. In watching him take down a deer, his father tells Chris that he has 'a gift' and is destined to be a good hunter. He also instilled in his son the idea that there are three kinds of people: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs, and that he knew Chris' purpose was to be the third.

Although when reaching adulthood, the Texas cowboy worked as a rodeo rider, his true calling kicked into gear after watching the 1998 bombing of a U.S. embassy on TV. Driven by his strong sense of patriotism, and wanting to serve his country in its fight agains terrorism that threatens our freedom, Chris enlisted in the military.

The film then takes us through his grueling boot camp training as a Navy Seal sniper, and his meeting with, Kaya (a dark haired, Sienna Miller), the woman he marries before being deployed on his first mission to Iraq after 9/11.

It was there that the Navy Seals' mission was to go door to door and hunt down their priority targets, a top Al Qaeda enforcer known as the Butcher, and his Al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi while Chris situates himself on a housetop keeping an eye out for suspicious, deadly players, which included a rival Syrian sniper named Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).

'American Sniper' covers his experiences as the Navy Seals' ace sniper during his four harrowing tours in Iraq from 2003 to 2009. With the camera following their calculated plans and moves, it is as if we are right with Chris and the brave soldiers who put themselves in the line of fire where they are forced to endure ambushes, shootouts and have interactions with local civilians that cannot be trusted. But it was Chris' amazing sharp eye and pinpoint accuracy at taking down his target that made his teammates feel invincible knowing he was up on the rooftop ready, willing and able to cover their backs.

Back at home was another thing. Returning to his anxious, worried wife and two children for a short time, and then called back to the war zone, put a strain on his marriage. Not wanting him to return to war, Kaya said he did his part, didn't know when to quit and that he was needed him home as a husband and father to his kids.

Although there were no visible wounds, the war took a toll on Chris' mind and spirit. Not the same man he was before he was deployed to the battlefield, back at home things like noise from drill at an automotive repair shop, his dog playing a bit rough with his son, elicited reactions related to his tours of duty that needed to be addressed. As a way to help himself, and continue his service to others, once home for good, Chris started working with disabled war veterans. Ironically, having survived his stints in Iraq and returned home safely, his life ended tragically in 2013.

More than portraying a war hero, Cooper humanizes him, brilliantly conveying Chris' self-confidence on the battlefield, his post-traumatic stress and suppressed inner turmoil. It is Cooper's most powerful, best performance to date, and he rightly deserves his Oscar nomination.

Praise goes to Eastwood for crafting a compelling, well executed tribute to a real life American hero that hits the mark.

 

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