Most directors have a style that is all their own, but there are only a handful who have such a specific style that you know right away if a film you’re watching is theirs. Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, Peter Jackson, Darren Aronofsky, David O. Russell and Clint Eastwood are just a few who fall into that category.
￼Eastwood delivers yet another winner (in more ways than one; it’s nominated for ￼six Oscars, including Best Picture) with “American Sniper,” a quiet, powerful, ￼touching story about the real-life Chris Kyle, known as the most lethal sniper in ￼military history.
￼Based on Chris’ memoir by the same name, “American Sniper” follows his story ￼￼from the time his younger brother was bullied as a child and his dad told him that “people are ￼either sheep, wolves, or sheepdogs.” Chris ultimately chooses to be a sheepdog ￼and signs up to become a Navy SEAL.
After ditching a doomed relationship, he meets and marries Taya (Sienna Miller). ￼After the 9/11 attacks, he’s sent to Iraq where his mission is to protect his fellow ￼SEALs, but his sniper skills are so lethal that he eventually breaks the record for ￼the most confirmed kills in military history.
￼Chris earns the nickname “Legend” in Iraq and, much to the chagrin of Taya and, ￼eventually, their two kids, he keeps signing up for more tours of duty until he ￼completes four total. Whenever he’s home, he feels like he should be overseas ￼protecting the soldiers.
￼When he finally decides to come home for good, Chris finds that he can’t get the ￼war out of his head. He misses the brotherhood of his fellow SEALS, but soon ￼discovers that helping other veterans and victims of PTSD helps to ease his re-￼entry onto American soil.
￼Eastwood’s imprint is all over this film. It’s a war story, but more than that, it’s a ￼story of the intense push and pull of emotions felt by soldiers like Chris. The ￼scenes morph between brutal war footage to quiet moments when Chris eyes a ￼target through a rifle’s telescopic sight. And yet, those scenes are perhaps the ￼most chilling, especially when his gun is aimed at a child who may or may not ￼have a weapon in his hands that will kill countless American soldiers.
￼Bradley Cooper — one of the best actors working today, in my view — bulked up to ￼play Chris and adapted his Texas drawl. Cooper immerses himself so deeply into ￼the role that he’s practically unrecognizable. If I was to use one word to describe ￼his performance as Chris, it would be “subtle” — which is exactly what’s needed ￼here. Whether he’s on the other side of the planet protecting soldiers or back ￼home meeting a soldier whose life he saved, Cooper’s acting is always subtle, ￼never over the top.
With the brilliance that is both Cooper and Eastwood, “American Sniper” is not only one of the best war movies ever made, but one of the best movies overall.
Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout, including some sexual references
Released in Theaters: Jan. 16, 2015 (limited release on Dec. 25, 2014)
Best for Ages: 17+
Runtime: 134 minutes
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Jake McDorman
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM:
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Jane Boursaw is a well-known film critic and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Images in this review used courtesy of Warner Bros.