Cinematic Releases: American Sniper

A busy day of reviews continues with J.G.'s review of American Sniper. 

"No more Hangover movies for me.
Thank. God."
There's a lot of Hollywood in American Sniper and whether that's okay or not is debatable. This doesn't mean that the film is any less good because of that. Some of it felt a little too contrived and buttered up for film. Either way, Clint Eastwood adeptly directs once again and Bradley Cooper is perfect as Chris Kyle with a neck as big around as snare drum and a very convincing Texas accent.

With Hurt Locker and Lone Survivor always fresh in my mind, I wouldn't say that American Sniper is as subtle as the former or as intense as the latter. Maybe I'm just getting numb to modern war films? The introduction of the rival sniper, Moustafa, for example, felt a little too convenient of a villain. Turns out he was a remnant of a concept of an early screenplay from Stephen Spielberg who was originally tapped for direction. Whether or not the film accurately portrays every detail or adversary, it didn't stop the film from being highly enjoyable. Moustafa indeed made for a great audience hook to keep the viewers yearning to reenter the battlefield just like Chris Kyle even if it was just an action figure tossed in for increased tension.

Bradley Cooper is in tip top form physically and mentally. He drifts out to the disturbing distances war can take a man: away from his family and himself with his mind always in the fight. Eastwood crafts just enough gut wrenching sequences where Kyle is forced to make insanely tough choices in the field and Cooper reels them in just as strongly. This is a story, firstly, about the ill effects that war has on a man and less about the action. If you're going into this film expecting Rambo, don't. While it's not light on action, it's nothing you've never seen before. There aren't any memorable shoot-em-up scenes, which is just fine by me, because the suspenseful sniper scenes make up for it. Other than that it's just helmets bobbing up and down behind brick walls and firing at nothing. Sometimes dudes with rags on their heads die.

"Oh, you are SO dead!!!"
These gripes were easily dismissed however in favor of a tight film that didn't overstay its welcome or bore into you with "God and country" preaching. It was rather matter of fact, being as fair and concentrated as possible on Kyle and his struggles at home and away. Opening the film and establishing his character, however, carried with it some curious editing that bounced between his training and wife at home. I understand that it was setting up the contrast of his two lives that would eventually struggle later, but it was ill-timed and teetered on bad pacing in spots. Don't take these detriments as deal breakers, though, because I certainly didn't.

Despite the questionable action, faltered pacing in the beginning, and injected cinematic flair, it's still a must see of 2014, very minor flaws aside. Surely the Oscars want this one on the tips of everyone's tongues as it should be. Bradley Cooper is a rock and delivers yet another great performance under Eastwood's careful direction, making another great entry into the war genre.

-J.G. Barnes