Beginning with a powerhouse scene where American sniper Chris Kyle is faced with a hard decision. Through his rifle scope he spies on a woman, dressed as a nun, hand a young boy an explosive. The boy takes the weapon and heads toward the platoon of American soldiers that Kyle is covering. This sort of moral dilemma that taunts a decent man is at the center of Clint Eastwood’s controversial new film.
An absorbing movie that tells the true life story of Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal sniper who while in Iraq was elevated to the status of “legend” for his skills. A former rodeo cowboy enlisting at the age of 30 years-old and serving four tours of duty, Kyle was the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills. But “American Sniper” is as concerned with the influence that this has on his psyche, his family and his place in the world.
At the confident age of 84 years young, Eastwood is probably the oldest director of major studio films, but once again he proves to be a master of the craft and is still in complete control of his cinematic vision delivering his strongest cinematic statement in a decade. Eastwood tells his hard tale with a surprisingly amount of warmth, humor and humanity. He identifies with military veterans, perhaps even cherishes them, while maintaining a neutral stance on the war itself.
“American Sniper” wisely keeps from falling into propaganda about America and the involvement in the wars in the middle east, back in the late 60‘s director John Wayne fell into this trap with abysmal “The Green Berets“, a movie that is still a stain on his career. Eastwood is as interested in exploring the inner conflict of a soldier, the effects on his home life and ultimately the struggle to reintegrate into society once the war has ended for him. Showing the cost of war both physically and psychologically without any agenda.
Not to say that “American Sniper” isn’t happily patriotic, which it seems appropriately to be. Better than “Zero Dark Thirty” and less preachy, this is the best movie to deal with our recent history of middle eastern conflicts.
It also works quite well as a combat movie, showing some of the most skillfully filmed and edited combat war scenes accompanied by a thunderous soundtrack. A subplot involving an insurgent sniper called “Mustafa” that becomes Kyle’s nemesis is a particularly compelling part of the movie adding a solid action film element to the film. Helping to keep the movie moving and never dull, at 133 minutes, “American Sniper” seems much shorter than it actually is, ultimately allowing the picture to serve on a level of entertainment, too.
Even many of the movie’s critics have acknowledged that Eastwood’s film is exceedingly well made, even blow hard filmmaker Michael Moore acknowledged this while at the same time calling out the movie. Audiences have spoken, though I rarely use that as a bench mark, but the movie has broken all January box office records and has found a mostly receptive public. This movie will mark a fine late career achievement for Eastwood’s legacy as a filmmaker, as well as a fine lasting accomplishment for Cooper. A powerhouse, a towering, emotional and visually accomplished movie that commands your full attention Controversy and all, I feel “American Sniper” is a conversation starter, I am sure that many different conversations shall arise, that will long keep us talking for quite awhile.