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Three Views: American Sniper

January 16, 2015

American Sniper Poster.jpg

American Sniper – A Warner Bros. Release

Release Date: January 16th, 2015

Rated 14A for coarse language, disturbing content and graphic violence

Running Time: 132 minutes

Clint Eastwood (director)

Jason Hall (writer)

Based on the book by Chris Kyle, with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle
Sienna Miller as Taya
Kyle Gallner as Goat-Winston
Kevin Lacz as Dauber
Jake McDorman as Biggles
Cory Hardrict as Dandridge
Luke Grimes as Marc Lee
Navid Negahban as Sheikh Al-Obodi
Sammy Sheik as Mustafa
Cole Konis as Young Chris Kyle

American Sniper

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) in American Sniper.

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American Sniper Review By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, American Sniper is an absolute knockout, that unfolds with gripping intensity and packs an incredibly powerful emotional punch.  This is a brilliantly staged and impeccably well made film that provokes fascinating conversation afterwards, and deserves high praise for Bradley Cooper’s outstanding leading work.

The film is based on the true story of celebrated Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who served four harrowing tours in Iraq, and is credited as being the most lethal sniper in United States military history, with 160 confirmed kills.  Perched on rooftops behind a high-powered rifle, with his bullets and perfect aim sometimes being the only things to protect his fellow soldiers from merciless enemy fire, Chris Kyle became a legend in the field.  But this status came with profound sacrifice and personal turmoil, struggling to support with wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and their young family back home.

Adapted from Chris Kyle’s autobiography, Jason Hall’s Oscar-nominated screenplay provides a nuanced portrayal of this complex man, and the complicated war he was fighting.  Brilliantly showing the tough, split-second decisions behind his reasons for pulling the trigger, American Sniper is unafraid of depicting even the most disturbing elements of Chris Kyle’s career.  But the film doesn’t glorify these acts of violence, instead serving as an honest and ultimately heartbreaking recognition of his extreme bravery and the sacrifices he made in a battle for freedom that is still far from over.

Gaining forty pounds and disappearing inside this role, Bradley Cooper is deserving of his third Oscar nomination, and continues to prove himself as one of the best actors we’ve got.  This is a masterful performance, focused and intense during the sequences of combat, and equally affective in the domestic moments, as we start to see the affects of war take their toll on him.  Whether partially hidden behind a rifle, revealing so much through subtle eye movements and facial expressions, or trying to hold it together during fierce attacks of PTSD, he is outstanding throughout every scene.

The editing, cinematography and sound design all click together perfectly, and American Sniper features some of the best and most intense scenes of war ever put on film, exploding with brutal violence and grounded in gritty authenticity.  Clint Eastwood directs this all with a sure hand, and the film culminates with a gripping and visually arresting sequence set in the midst of a sandstorm that is masterfully pulled off, and impossible to look away from.

This film knocked me flat.  I left the theatre shaken, and can’t stop thinking about it.  Visceral and shocking in the combat sequences, and equally haunting in the quieter scenes, American Sniper is a towering achievement that hits like a punch to the gut.

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American Sniper Review by Erin Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Based on the true story and autobiography by Chris Kyle, American Sniper tells Kyle’s story as  he became known as ‘the most lethal sniper in U.S. history.’  After 9/11, Kyle enlisted to become a Navy SEAL, and was soon sent for his first tour in Iraq.  As a sniper, his job was to cover the Marines as they went house to house, looking for high-level targets at ground level.  As Kyle sees locals tortured by insurgents, and friends killed, he has to always make the split second decision of taking a shot.  The toll of the war comes home with him between each tour, and like many he feels the need to go back and continue his mission.  After four tours and 160 confirmed kills, he finally returned home.

The story is masterfully told with Clint Eastwood’s direction and Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle, creating a film that shows us the violence, emotional toll, and specific reality of fighting a modern-day war.  Unlike the two armies clashing on battlefields of old, the fight here is unpredictable, a cat and mouse game, with danger lurking around every corner, behind any door.  Anyone on the ground on either side knew, death could come unseen from above at any time, requiring troops to fully trust their own sniper as their protection.  And just as Kyle was the ‘legend’ on the US side, the insurgents also had a sniper who could end a life from 1000 metres out with a single shot.  As Kyle and this man are pitted against each other on the battlefield, the steady camera shots and precise framing keeps us engaged in a war film that makes every second, every action, noticeable and count.

The film was just nominated for six Academy Awards (Adapted Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Editing, Best Actor [Bradley Cooper], and Best Picture).  They are all very deserved – if anything, I would have added cinematography in there as well and possibly directing.  But for the noms up there, the editing was superb, both sound and picture, and Cooper’s performance carries the film with a nuance and emotion that wordlessly draws us in as he sits behind the rifle contemplating every action, every shot.  American Sniper engages us and demands our attention.  By the time the credits roll, the emotional reality of the film is undeniable.  While it is violent and at times hard to watch, older teens and adult viewers should put this one on their radar.

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American Sniper Review By Tony Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

American Sniper is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the most successful sniper in the Iraq war known to friends as “the Legend” and to enemies as “شيطان الرمادي” (Shaitan Al-Ramadi–The Devil of Ramadi). Brought up in Texas, Kyle started out as a rodeo rider, but following an injury decided to serve his country as a sniper with the Navy SEALs. Married with two children, he found adjustment to home life increasingly difficult after each tour.

Though some of the actual details may have been different, the film directed by Clint Eastwood is faithful to Kyle’s story, featuring some of the most harrowing house-to-house combat I have ever seen with snipers on both sides. Bradley Cooper did everything possible to nail his role, spending time with the Kyles and others who knew Chris, and a diet and SEAL training that surpassed even his A-Team days, resulting in a brilliant portrayal of the inner workings of Kyle’s mind as he deals with the demands of life both in combat and at home.

Except for Sienna Miller as his long-suffering wife, the rest of the cast, however good, fades into the background, particularly the expendable enemy forces. Overall, American Sniper is a good film that will appeal particularly to patriotic Americans, distinguished by Bradley Cooper’s performance worthy of its Oscar nomination.

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Consensus: Adapted from Chris Kyle’s autobiography, the Oscar-nominated American Sniper is a gripping and incredibly powerful film, with intensely realized sequences of war, and an outstanding performance from Bradley Cooper. ★★★★ (out of 4)

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