I love movies that make you think, even if sometimes it’s about things that are difficult to handle.
“American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper in the true life story of US Navy Seal Chris Kyle, as he uses his pinpoint shooting skills to protect his comrades at all costs. Clint Eastwood directs the action with an unflinching look at the difficult choices and consequences war has on even the best of men. Consequences that often continue even after coming home. and wow, what a powerful piece of work Eastwood has put together here, and there are several reasons I think it has the impact it does.
Let’s start with Bradley Cooper. Sure, it’s true that Cooper transformed his look for this movie putting on muscle like nobodies business, but even beyond the physical performance Cooper plays this Seal with a balance of strength and vulnerability that is really impressive. There’s a necessary steadiness to it especially when you consider the mindset that a sniper in Iraq would have to adopt. And that’s the main way this movie succeeds, it takes us not just into the physical space of the war against terrorism, but very specifically into the mental space where these men have to exist to do what it takes. It’s not a pretty space, and there are some moments in this that will be very, very difficult to process for many moviegoers. But that’s good right? To look these things in the face and test your own moral meter against the true complexities of war. It’s also impressive that amongst all of this, Eastwood does a great job at allowing the truth of this man’s story to communicate it’s own message without the need for too much massaging on his part. He focuses his energy on creating the tension and drama and communicating the fullness of the characters. A choice that pays huge dividends in connecting to the emotion of the story resulting in a captivating and tumultuous ride.
In fact, the only moments I got taken out of the movie were some minor production value moments. There’s this one moment where Chris is supposed to be comforting his crying baby and it’s severely obvious he’s patting a doll, which took me out of the movie, as now all I’m seeing in my mind big buff Bradley Cooper play acting with a cabbage patch kid. Other than a couple things like that, the movie does suffer from a bit of repetition, with the war scenes all feeling similar, but I’m not sure that isn’t an intentional choice to indicate the relentless repetition of war itself.
At the end of the day, “American Sniper” is a wonderful testament to the life of an incredible man, and a powerful look into the mindset of modern warfare. Eastwood’s direction is confident and Cooper is phenomenal throughout, with only a few production hiccups and a bit of repetition to notch this down to an A-