Cooper, Eastwood pay homage to American hero in ‘Sniper’
By Bob Bloom
Bradley Cooper’s amazing performance — and physical transformation — is the driving force behind “American Sniper.”
The film, ably directed by Clint Eastwood, is the story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history.
Kyle, a Navy SEAL, was sent to Iraq, where his job was to protect soldiers.
He did his job with deadly proficiency, being credited with more than 100 kills, thus protecting countless lives.
“American Sniper” does more than take us on the battlefield. It takes us into Kyle’s psyche and slowly shows the toll his job takes on his mind and emotions.
Kyle is praised as a hero because of the lives he preserved, but he continually chides himself for his failures — which he considers as lives he was unable to save.
Cooper as Kyle is barely recognizable. He has bulked up and speaks with Kyle’s Texas drawl. He is far from the actor who starred in “The Hangover” films or “Silver Linings Playbook.”
His Kyle is a patriot, believing he should serve his country by using his skills and accuracy.
But he continues to re-up and return to Iraq, his sense of duty begins to wear on him and his family.
At home with his wife and children, he acts lost and is emotionally distant. The warrior instinct is so embedded in his persona that he cannot react normally to civilian life.
What “American Sniper” does best is display the camaraderie, the John Wayne-like machismo that SEALS carry as easily as their weapons.
They are true believers, never doubting their missions or purpose.
Eastwood is at his best when showing how Kyle depersonalizes his mission. Those he sees through the scope of his rifle are not people — they are threats, targets, the enemy — no matter their age or gender.
Where “American Sniper” falters is adding a “white-whale” nemesis — a sniper nearly as deadly as Kyle with whom he plays a cat-and-mouse game throughout Iraq over several years.
This adds an unnecessary melodramatic tone to the movie that detracts from the sense of realism that “Sniper” is working to replicate.
Eastwood, who is usually a no-frills director, resorts to some unnecessary special effects that, again, go against the film’s overall tone.
Despite these small glitches, “American Sniper” ranks as one of the better films depicting the nation’s involvement in the quagmire that has been Iraq.
And it is an effective tribute to the courage and fortitude of an individual who fought for his country, despite the emotional and mental costs of his service.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
3 stars out of 4
(R), graphic and disturbing war violence, language, sexual situations