Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Elise Robertson, Troy Vincent, Ben Reed (Rated MA – 132 min).
Directed By Clint Eastwood with his usual laid back flair for good storytelling, don’t be tricked into thinking this is an all out action adventure, this draining tale goes beyond the boundaries of war looking at soldiers coping upon return.
The riveting journey of Chris Kyle, a working-class good old boy that became an elite Navy Seal and sniper of the highest order who went on multiple tours of duty in the ‘War of Terror’ in the Middle East is flag-waving patriotic all the way. An eye for detail and pinpoint accuracy brought absolute trust from fellow troops so much so, a reputation emerged that built him up into hero status.
In part adapted from Kyle’s own book brought to extended life by screenwriter Jason Hall, interest levels remain high if somewhat brutal, not just on the killing fields but within the mind of the honoured serviceman. In what many have described as a career-best performance by Bradley Cooper, the usual pretty-boy actor transforms his physical appearance and adapts a Texan drawl accent that, frustratingly, I could hardly understand a word of. Maybe it was just me, but bright yellow subtitles whenever he spoke would have been appreciated. That said, the emotional clout Cooper gives is incredible, capturing the essence of a man who lives for his job in combat but struggles to distinguish normality when he returns to his family.
Recreating the dusty, crumbling, country in turmoil atmosphere of battlefield is appropriately harsh while the initial meeting of his future wife Taya (British actress Sienna Miller) at a cocktail bar inhabited by pumped up military personnel was full unexpected romantic comfort more suited to a chick-flick. Over time, Kyle has more of a relationship with his rifle than with his wife for the most part. Anxiety and distance took its toll.
Already a massive box-office success stateside, American Sniper remains a long-shot (pun intended) at the Academy Awards but remains a powerful story about a truly stoic man that took belief of showing courage at all times in protection to his beloved country.
For those who may not know the outcome of Chris Kyle or even those that do, tears will be shed.
Shane A. Bassett