It’s a warzone. Structures lie crumbled and derelict from explosions and gunfire. US marines creep in formation between buildings with objectives. This particular city has been evacuated, anyone still there is a likely terrorist. Above them - almost as a guardian angel – US SEAL, Chris Kyle lays with his eye through a sniper scope with his own set objective - protect the marines below.
Out of a door comes a woman and young child, visually they look innocent as if walking to the shop - but in the direction of the marines. The child is handed a grenade from his mother and runs towards them. Is he helping and returning it? Or is he aiming to kill? But he is only a young child! Suspense builds, and acting as God from afar, Kyle has to react. Shoot or not shoot?
That is how Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper begins; tense, brutal and setting a high bar for the remaining two hours. Based on the best-selling autobiography by Chris Kyle, American Sniper is the true story of his life as child to the beginning of 2013. Detailing his personal life, merits in the SEALS and his long lasting legacy of US achievements, the meaning of his accolade ‘the most lethal sniper in US history’ is revealed. Shortly; it’s an important film, about an important man, with an important purpose - which is a lot for one film to compress. But American Sniper does not wallow in the war film clichés or allow time for it to even soak in, as suspense drives the towering momentum of war onto screen.
As well as producing the film, Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle. Transformed to look like his real-life counterpart, Cooper has not only bulked on the muscle and grown facial hair, but also took on the Texan accent and propels his interesting life on to screen as if paralleled. Switching from the deadly battlefields to life at home, Cooper contrasts Kyle’s every emotion on screen. Whether he is on the frontline-battlefield, or at home with his family (and wife Sienna Miller - brilliant), he is committed and tested over four tours on his choice of the two. He is an enigma, and with this 160 credited kills, plus 100 probable extras, patriotism, ethics of war are physiologically weighed up on him. Expect an Oscar nod, Cooper.
Similar to The Hurt Locker - in a mix of subject, theme and quality – American Sniper introduces us to the world of warcraft, and brings the tones of Call of Duty to the screen with seemingly authentic-realism. It’s intense and places a looking glass of what it is really like with first hand experiences from Kyle. Fortunately, all politics and American ideology are absent, Instead American Sniper focuses on heroism, loyalty and tragedy building to the best battle finale a film can offer.
It’s pretty well crafted, cinematography is crisp, and elusive camera work at point stand out during action sequences. Yet, perhaps nit-picking – and only just forgivable given the rest of the prosperous moment- lazy film making still transpires as obvious CGI blood and bullets lay ridden, and the worst robotic-baby a film has even seen comes full on screen as it was made on a TV budget.
That aside, Eastwood, although now in his eighties continues to make decent films - Jersey Boy’s aside. American Sniper is no exception and keeps us on toes and inside Kyle’s head as he tells the story of pain and veteran stress that it ultimately endeavours. He has not broken any new ground, but has certainly proven that he is man for the job.