Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban, Keir O'Donnell, Cole Konis, Luke Sunshine, Mido Hamada, Sammy Sheik
Written by: Jason Hall, based on a book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, Jim DeFelice
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Running Time: 132
Date: 12/25/2014
IMDB

American Sniper (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

His Aim Is True

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Clint Eastwood directs this true story based on Chris Kyle's own memoir, and he gives it his usual strong touch, uncluttered, confident, and without showing off.

As a child, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was told that people are either sheep, wolves, or sheepdogs. Chris chooses to be a sheepdog and signs up to become a Navy SEAL. He meets and marries Taya (Sienna Miller), and after the 9/11 attacks he is sent to Iraq. His mission is to protect his fellow SEALs, but his skill with a rifle is so awesome that he eventually breaks the record for the most confirmed kills in military history.

He becomes a legend in Iraq, and keeps signing up for more tours of duty, much to the despair of Taya and their children. When Chris finally decides to come home for good, he finds he can't get the war out of his head, until he discovers that helping other veterans and victims of PTSD brings him solace.

It's no surprise that the war footage is so brutally affecting, and it's no surprise that Bradley Cooper's performance is so striking. For his role, Cooper bulks up and totally immerses himself into Kyle; he's practically unrecognizable.

But what's so surprising about American Sniper is how subtly balanced it is. Kyle's politics are firmly established. He believes that the war in Iraq is just and that he's protecting his country. However, as he did in the misunderstood J. Edgar (2011), Eastwood brilliantly inserts the character into a less black-and-white world in which there are no certainties. Kyle is allowed to be totally human and sympathetic, regardless of his beliefs.

Of course Kathryn Bigelow's great The Hurt Locker covered similar territory, but American Sniper is different enough to be worthwhile.

The film was nominated for six Oscars and won for Best Sound Editing.

Warner Home Video released a Blu-ray in May of 2015. As far as I can tell, the digital transfer is fine, though the visuals are often dusty and grimy, so viewers may not be totally blown away. Sound is excellent. The only extras are two official, very respectful featurettes, running about a half-hour each. One is more focused on Kyle, and the other on the movie. Eastwood appears briefly, but it's mostly writer Jason Hall and others.

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