American Sniper may
come from a Hollywood studio, but it is absolutely uncompromising, and
certainly one of the year’s finest films. Bradley Cooper vanishes into the
character of Chris Kyle, a real-life Texan who served four terms of duty in
Iraq. A lifelong hunter and a sincere patriot, he became a champion marksman in
the Army—and a celebrated hero—but his dedication to duty exacted a heavy toll
on his psyche as well as his marriage.
Working from a screenplay by Jason Hall (who adapted Kyle’s
book about his experiences), director Clint Eastwood makes us feel as if we’re
right in the midst of the action in Iraq. The result is chilling and truly frightening.
Eastwood even puts us inside Chris Kyle’s head as he debates whether, and when,
to pull the trigger and end a life. I can’t think of many films that create
such a tangible connection between the viewer and a movie’s protagonist.
While it recreates recent history, the movie doesn’t have a
political agenda. It dramatizes the chaos of war rather than its causes. In the
wake of the 9/11 attacks, Kyle feels it is his duty to serve his country. Before
shipping out, he meets an attractive woman at a bar and pursues her with the
same single-mindedness of purpose he brings to every aspect of his life. She
soon becomes his wife. Sienna Miller hasn’t had this rich a character to play
in a while, and she is superb: a spirited woman who stands up to Kyle’s barroom
come-on and finds that he’s not just slipping her a line. He is just what he
seems to be.
Modern warfare has seldom been staged with such intensity; I
won’t soon forget the blinding sandstorm that climaxes the film. But it’s Chris
Kyle’s specific role, and point of view, as a sniper that sets this film apart.
Clint Eastwood has realized the full potential of this riveting
story; there isn’t a false note or a wasted moment. American Sniper is tough to watch but offers plentiful food for