Clint Eastwood has become a highly respected figure in the film industry. His iconic acting would have got him there, but add on his prolific film score composing and the fact that American Sniper is his 37th (THIRTY-SEVENTH!) directorial credit and the much over-used epithet “legend” is surely applicable. Given that I was less than complimentary about his last film (2014’s Jersey Boys), and particularly since he still doesn’t look – at 85 – as someone you want to get into a fight with, I’d better be nicer about his latest! And that’s not hard, as it is a very good film.
Bradley Cooper hunks-up to play real-life Navy-SEAL Chris Kyle, a sharp-shooter as a deer-hunting kid who, patriotically driven on by the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, ‘signs up’ and just gets better and better as a SEAL sniper.
On his wedding day he gets his call-up to his first tour of duty in the dusty and dangerous hell of the Iraq war. The film effectively charts both his stressful and dramatic tours of duty (where he quickly acquires the moniker of “Legend” and a price on his head) as well as the devastating effect that the build-up of post-traumatic stress has on his married life.
“Silver Linings Playbook” aside I’ve not always been a great fan of Bradley Cooper’s acting, but in American Sniper he really delivers a brilliant performance, switching from the outside world’s view of a macho hero to a haunted and tormented soul when given calm to reflect. Although (in my book) he probably won’t win, it’s good to see he was Oscar-nominated for this.
Donning the dark hair dye, Sienna Miller is also extremely good as his long-suffering wife Taya.
In the same way as “The Hurt Locker” got to the unvarnished reality of the Iraq war(s), so this film also lays on the tension by the bucket-load. The action sequences are extremely well done, with the story-arc over the four tours of duty being Kyle’s zealous pursuit of his equivalent on the other side: a Syrian Olympic sharpshooter who has been taking a toll on American troops.
Whilst I was moderately engaged by the film, it is rather too energetically painted in red white and blue for British tastes, and dispatches “bad guys” at such an incredible rate compared to the US troops that by my reckoning the war should have been over in under 2 weeks. My wife found the war sequences rather repetitious and I can see her point: the film’s 132 minute running time could have usefully been trimmed by 15 minutes or so. A lot of the dialogue in the film is also difficult to hear: somewhat ironic in that it has been nominated for Oscars for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing… (so what do I know?!).
With other Oscar nominations for Best Film, Best editing (well deserved) and best adapted screenplay, and with its fervently Patriotic feel, this is bound to do quite well on February 22nd. It’s only a shame that there wasn’t a category for “Most plastic looking baby”, else this film would have been a shoe-in for that.
Fad Rating: FFFf.