Film Review: American Sniper (★★)

American_Sniper_posterDemonstrating competent war scenes, along with an astounding and near unrecognizable performance from two-time Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood‘s new film “American Sniper” falters on storytelling and thematic developments.  Continuously going back to the sacrifice that our military men and women make, which is perfectly fine, but beating the audience over the head with the sacrifice they make is something we’ve seen before.  

The tagline of the poster reads: “the most lethal sniper in American history.”  You’d expect to see a lot more sniping that led this man to becoming a “legend,” which is what everyone calls him.  The inner turmoil for a soldier is understood, but what more does Eastwood and scribe James Dean Hall have to say?  Evidently, not much.  If you’re looking for a tribute to a soldier, than the film suffices.  If you’re looking for a good movie, then this oddly constructed, and often times uninteresting piece will leave you wanting more.

Eastwood has taken on war films before with “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.”  One of those is gorgeously constructed and moving.  Eastwood is obviously pro-soldiers, as we should all be however, the film often rings false as Chris Kyle goes from cowboy, to enlistment, to watching the twin towers fall, and wanting nothing more than to continue to serve.  Surely that can be the case in real life with the real Kyle, and this is no disrespect to his sacrifice and memory, but hardly anything that is presented on-screen feels authentic.

americansniper_imageBradley Cooper has proven his worth for the past two years with work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle.”  As Chris Kyle, this could be the best work Cooper has done yet.  Unrecognizable and emulating the works of a Heath Ledger and/or Jeremy Renner, Cooper creates Kyle from the legs up, giving him beats that elevate the material.  One scene in particular will rid any doubts that anyone has ever had as him as an actor.  He’s a marvelous wonder to behold.

Sienna Miller is vastly wasted in a character that will go down as one of the worst of the year.  The supportive wife equivalent of Jar Jar Binks, an overwhelming feeling of annoyance is present every time Miller shares the screen.  

Tom Stern’s camera has finally been given a flash lens as we’re finally able to decipher what’s going on.  A dust storm is expertly shot that helps create palpable tension.  The best scene of the film.  

This is one of the Eastwood’s strongest attempts at recapturing his magic from “Million Dollar Baby” but he comes nowhere within its vicinity on quality.  I’m unapologetically a person that didn’t find “Invictus” a catastrophe and that remains one of his better efforts as of late.  “American Sniper” will have its fans but Bradley Cooper is the only take away from the picture.  That’s a marvel to watch.  Everything else, not so much.  

Read Terence and Karen‘s take on the film from AFI.  

American Sniper” opens in theaters on Christmas Day and is distributed by Warner Bros..