Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Movie with Abe: American Sniper

American Sniper
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released December 25, 2014

Two words that don’t typically go together are “American” and “sniper.” The nationality descriptor often comes first in two-word movie titles, usually followed by something lighter like “Beauty” or “Hustle.” Sniper has a negative connotation, one that associates with violence and a hunter of some sort targeting prey that cannot see him or her. In the case of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, there is no judgment cast on his central character, who is described as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, a badge of honor whose merits are up for debate in this sober and intense look at one driven American’s commitment to his country.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is introduced in the first scene on a rooftop in a war zone, and it’s only moments before he has to make a choice to shoot a young boy whose mother has just handed him a grenade, something that only Chris can confirm. Chris’ backstory is then shown, from his upbringing in a traditional household to his days as a cowboy in his home state of Texas. Watching news reports of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies abroad instills such a sense of patriotism and anger in Chris that he immediately signs up for the military. His hunting training with his father makes him the ideal sniper, and Chris, newly married with a baby on the way, leaves to go defend his country against all who wish to repress freedom.

Chris earns his reputation as a legend due to his expert marksmanship, though it’s a distinction that comes with a caveat, since some see Chris as too trigger-happy, and a readiness to shoot people means that Chris will have a tough time adjusting back to civilian life. Every time Chris returns home, his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) can’t home to communicate with him, since Chris is stuck in the mentality of being at war and fails to recognize any problem with reacclimating to being with his family. It’s interesting to see Eastwood make a film like this, one which questions the effect of war and violence on those directly involved and invested in it. Cooper is a brave choice for this role and one who pays off tremendously, delivering a serious and affecting performance as the dedicated sniper. The film resonates, though there’s something about this particular true story and how it’s told that doesn’t feel as powerful or vital as other recent films about war and people coming home from it.


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