Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
As he looks through the scope of his high-powered rifle, Chris Kyle (Cooper) describes the scene. A young boy and his mother are standing on the street while a group of American soldiers approaches. The woman hands the boy something and he starts walking towards the soldiers. Kyle thinks the woman handed the boy a grenade and asks for confirmation. No one else saw the handoff so now it’s up to Kyle to make a decision. Shoot an innocent boy and cause a world-wide uproar, or defend the troops he’s there to protect. He releases the safety, exhales quietly and….
Featuring an amazing performance by Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper” is Clint Eastwood’s return as an important filmmaker. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Eastwood’s take on “Jersey Boys” last summer but musicals are not his bread and butter. After years of “one for you” (a “Dirty Harry” flick) and “one for me” (“Honky Tonk Man,” “White Hunter, Black Heart”) with Warner Brothers, Eastwood created “Unforgiven,” winning his first directing Oscar along the way. He followed that film up with “Mystic River” (another Oscar nod) and “Million Dollar Baby” (another Oscar) as well as two very different films that looked at war through different eyes, “Flags of My Father” and “Letters From Iwo Jima.” A musical was probably a nice break but Eastwood is best when he’s looking at life and the moral questions it asks.
Based on the exploits Kyle himself highlighted in his book of the same name, “American Sniper” is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat constantly. Eastwood puts the viewer INTO the war. It’s you looking through the scope, fingering the trigger and praying you’re not wrong.
Carrying an extra 40 pounds of muscle, Cooper transforms himself in to Kyle. Gone is the smart-alecky Phil from “The Hangover.” Instead we gaze upon one of America’s finest. Cooper loses himself in the performance giving a believability that is often lost in films like this. He is matched emotion for emotion by Miller, who portrays his frightened wife, Taya. Her fear, home alone, is just as real as the fear Kyle faces in the field. But that fear doesn’t stop him from doing his job, emerging from his tours of duty as the most deadly sniper in U.S. military history. Kyle is so feared by the enemy that “Wanted” posters featuring just images of just his tattoos begin springing up. His story is uplifting as well as it is tragic, and should be remembered for a long time to come.