Saturday, January 17, 2015


Director: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay: Jason Dean Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures / Village Roadshow Pictures

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict

Review by James Colt Harrison

Every once in awhile an actor gets a great part in which he is on screen for nearly every scene. Such is the case for the excellent Bradley Cooper in this tour-de-force part of real-life Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. It’s a terrific opportunity for Cooper to show off his dramatic acting chops, and he succeeds as have few actors this year.

As is often said, truth is stranger than fiction, and it is true about Kyle’s personal story. Kyle became the greatest sniper and marksman in military history. Eastwood has taken the short and sad life of the Navy hero and turned it into a poignant story of a man conflicted between loyalty to his mission and his sometimes fumbled attempts at being a loving father and husband.

Based on a book co-written by Kyle, we find his inner most thoughts are discussed more readily in the book than on the screen. However, Eastwood depicts the young man as one who loves his work, is loyal to the other men and to the cause and reason as to why they are engaged in the fighting. Kyle spent four grueling tours of duty in Iraq to eliminate the “evil” inherent in that country.

The opening scene is a tense thriller of emotions, and Eastwood has directed it so the audience can hold its breath over Kyle’s difficult choices. Should he fire or not on a woman and her small boy? If he’s mistaken, he could go up on charges of murder. It’s a stunner of a scene.

Kyle became so well-know to his buddies about his targeting skills that he soon took on the name “The Legend.” He was correctly able to spot and eliminate targets that were a danger to the troops. He got so good at it that he was enlisted to join the other men in making “sweeps” of local houses to find the notorious and despicable murderer called “The Butcher.”

Between his four harrowing tours of Iraq, Kyle returned home to his family. He becomes more and more estranged from his wife, played realistically by Sienna Miller. He doesn’t really know what’s wrong, but the war has affected him psychologically more than he realizes. In small increments, he is falling to pieces and succumbing to the horrors of war. Cooper shows this quietly and subtly at first, then in larger and more emotional gestures as he grows war-weary. It is certainly the best acting Cooper has done in films, and he should be handsomely rewarded by being cast in better and better films. It’s a star-making role for sure, and Cooper is up to commanding the screen throughout the long 134 minutes.

One aspect of Kyle’s legendary sniper expertise that must not be lost is that he saved thousands of American lives. By his pinpoint accuracy at taking out the enemy, he made it safer for the American military. Unfortunately for him, however, is that the enemy put a price on his head and made him a prime target of insurgents.

Warner Bros and Clint Eastwood are having American Sniper  released in the giant IMAX format for better enjoyment of audiences. “American Sniper is a tense and engaging drama, “ said Greg Foster, Senior Executive Vice President of IMAX Entertainment. “—one that will keep you on the edge of your seat, particularly when experiencing it in IMAX theatres.”

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