American Sniper hits the mark

Behind a strong lead performance and solid direction, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is a well made tribute to an American hero.

Nowadays Hollywood loves to over-produce and glorify some true stories to make them grander and more appealing to audiences around the world. That’s not always a bad thing, but it just kind of takes away the beauty of what made the true story so special. American Sniper could have been another over produced war flick about an American war hero, but instead Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper craft a haunting and mostly captivating portrait of a true American legend.

American Sniper tells the real life story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and his struggle to keep the war and his home life separate. The movie is based off of Kyle’s memoir and recounts almost his entire life from his rough childhood, to his wondering twenties, to eventually becoming the deadliest American sniper to ever live. The film does a great job of creating Kyle as a fully rounded character, which is crucial for a film like this.

Much of the time is spent with Kyle, and rightfully so, which means that Cooper must carry the acting load of the film and he does so beautifully. Cooper has had some fantastic performances lately (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle), but this is arguably his best performance to date. It’s more than just gritty yet grounded; it’s also performed with a lot of respect and honor.    

            Respect and honor are the first two words when I think of this movie, which I think is important when you are doing a biopic on an American war hero. That being said, there were some minor problems with the movie.

The movie runs a somewhat bloated time of 134 minutes and unfortunately does get bland at moments. It does dive into some heavy subject matters to be sure, but there are times in the movie where I felt things were played a little safe. Comparing it to The Hurt Locker might be a little unfair since I think that both films were aiming to do different thematic things, but I wish Eastwood or the writers would have dared to go a little deeper like Kathryn Bigelo’s modern classic did.

The film’s third act is very strong. After experiencing some war scenes early in the film, Eastwood saves his best for last as he shows off not only his suspenseful filmmaking skills, but also his storytelling ones as well. He is able to walk on this tightrope between gritty war action and emotional consequences very well.

Going into the film, there were certainly question marks of if this was going to work. It has a director who has had some missteps lately (I did not see Jersey Boys, but to be fair, who did?), an actor who has had an up and down career, and the screenwriter of the little seen Paranoia. All that being said, those are three of the film’s strongest areas. Clint Eastwood’s direction is sure-handed and spot-on, Bradley Cooper gives one of his best performances of his career, and the script handles the subject matter with the perfect amount of respect and honor that is warranted for a film like this.

Overall, American Sniper is a great tribute to an American war hero. Bradley Cooper gives one of his best performances of his career and solidifies himself as one of the better actors working in Hollywood right now. On the directing side, Clint Eastwood is able to make this real life story effective, yet somewhat safe. Although I do not think it will win any awards come Oscar time (it is nominated for Best Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing), I still think this is a very well-made and respectful look at how the horrors of war can affect a person and what it means to be a true American war hero.