Saturday, January 31, 2015

Film Review - American Sniper

The film opens in the middle. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is poised on a rooftop with spotter Goat (Kyle Gallner) by his side. He is still, quiet and breathing rythmically as he peer through the lens of his M40 rifle. The marine unit below rolls down the towns main street the audible rhythm of the Abrams tank's chains fill the air. Kyle stares back into his scope and spots a woman and young boy entering the street are they friendly or a threat? Kyle has to make a call from hundreds of yards away. If he shoots and they are innocent he could face charges if he hesitates and they are the enemy it will mean death for the marines that are relying on him for protection.

The scene shifts back Texas of the near past. Kyle's main concern is riding bucking horses, his younger brother Jeff ( Keir O'Donnell), having a few beers and spending time with his girl. His Father took him hunting reglarly as a kid teaching him respect for both his rifle and his prey. After a break up with his current girlfriend followed by a night out with Jeff September 11th occurred leading Kyle to the local recruiting office and off to SEAL training.

Veteran director Clint Eastwood presents the story of a true life American solider. Eastwood uses every opportunity to develop tension in the film. From the moments where Kyle has to make the decision to shoot or not on rooftops. To heated discussions with locals, interpreters present as the American troops go door to door to find the enemy. Another different take in the story by writer Jason Hall and from Chris Kyle's book are the satellite phone calls home from the theatre of battle. As a Sniper Kyle is often removed from the action therefore he has the chance to switch his earphone to a different channel to call home and speak to his wife Taya (Sienna Miller).

The heart of the film is the focus on the difficulty for Chris Kyle to reintegrate back into domestic society. He goes on four plus tours of Iraq hits all the hot spots Fallujah, Ramadi and Sadyr City.  Over there he has his orders and his team. He can do his job and is very good at it. He is a hero to his fellow troops with a confirmed 160 kills knowing exactly where he fits in.  Back at home he can't adjust to the pace. He's distant from his wife, awkward with his kids and family friends seeing combat scenarios from Iraq at backyard barbecues and while traveling on city streets. The production also dedicates a good bit of time to Veteran hospitals and services including Kyle's work with wounded veterans that helps both the soldiers in the hospital and Kyle himself.

Bradley Cooper is forceful as Chris Kyle. Cooper bulked up for the role, settled into a thick Texas drawl and seemed at ease playing a menacing guy especially during several scenes on the home front. Sienna Miller is strong as Taya. She resists Kyle's advances as first not wanting anything to do with a Navy SEAL but becomes his wife and partner.  She is the one that his to try to reach him when he tunes out at home. She is also the person on his mind when he realizes that he is done in Iraq and is coming home for good.

American Sniper looks at the war in Iraq from a different lens. It's the attention paid to the time between tours on the home front and the struggles veterans face working back into normal society that separates the piece. It is a film I can recommend.

American Sniper | Clint Eastwood | U.S.A. | 2014 | 132 Minutes.

Tags; Biography, Iraq, Navy SEAL, Falluja, Ramadi, Sadyr City, 4 Tours, PTSD, Veteran Affairs, BUD/S.

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