DVD Review: “American Sniper”

american-sniperIf you can set aside whatever opinions you may have about Clint Eastwood and his politics for two hours and 14 minutes, prepare to be compelled by his latest film, “American Sniper.”

In a February Google Consumer Survey, 42 percent of respondents said that “American Sniper” is the best movie they had seen in the past year. But Hollywood did not quite see it that way, shutting the film out of every Academy Award it was nominated for this year, except for sound editing, which is equivalent to a participation medal. (Of course, popularity does not equal greatness, as evidenced by the fact that “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the top-grossing movie of the month. But in this case, the popularity is justified.)

With the way many critics have portrayed this film as jingoist, pro-war propaganda, you would think “American Sniper” is this year’s “The Green Berets.” Unfortunately for those blinded by preconceptions, they are missing out on an enthralling, true story of what war does to a man and his family. Even more simply, it is a gripping war movie.

For a film directed by a grumpy octogenarian, “American Sniper” sure is exciting. Unlike some war movies, this one never slogs, thanks to the source material, the 2012 memoir of the same name by the late Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle.

The movie follows Kyle, played by an excellent Bradley Cooper, through his four tours in Iraq as the so-called “most lethal sniper in American history.” Cooper has been recognized for the past three years for his dramatic work in “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle,” but it wasn’t until now that he has really proved his range.

Cooper expresses Kyle’s anguish as he shoots down a mother and child who were prepared to launch a grenade at a tank full of U.S. soldiers; on the other hand, we see how revenge propels him after one of his friends is gunned down. The scenes between Kyle and wife, Taya, played by Sienna Miller, range from sweet to heart-wrenching as they grapple with Kyle’s career and what it does to their family.

The acting in “American Sniper” is great, even from Miller, who often brings nothing more to a film than a pretty face. The supporting cast of Kyle’s war buddies is also strong and, at times, adds comic relief. Some of the film’s scenes are heavy-handed — and cheesy — especially the flashbacks to Kyle as a child. A short scene with Kyle holding what is clearly a plastic baby doll is ludicrous. (Apparently, two baby actors got sick and so Eastwood decided to go with a fake baby. This is the worst directorial decision in the movie.)

Overall, “American Sniper” is a powerful movie made even more tragic by what ultimately ended Kyle’s life. In the movie’s haunting final scene, Kyle walks outside to meet Eddie Ray Routh, a solider Kyle was mentoring, and the man who was convicted last week of murdering Kyle and a friend. Taya closes the front door of their home and warily stares down Routh, like she knows something is amiss. It turns out she was right.

Taylor Bigler Mace

Taylor Bigler Mace

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Taylor covers sports and maritimes for the Islander. As a native of Texas, she is an unapologetic Dallas Cowboys fan. [email protected]
Taylor Bigler Mace

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