Movie Review: American Sniper

From acclaimed actor and director Clint Eastwood, famous for playing legendary roles in film and bringing his keen eye of dark, emotional intensity to his directing, comes American Sniper, a harrowing tale of a soldier struggling to tackle the grueling hardships of maintaining a family, while also giving himself to his country every way he can. Chronicling the heart-shattering true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, Eastwood delivers one of his best films in this immense ride through the tragedies of war, the demands of a family, and the mind of the man who risked it all. 

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) used to be a charming, somewhat arrogant, cowboy living a life of bull-riding and ranching. That was until the day he realized he could do more in life, that he could give himself to his country in a better way than focusing only on himself. Enlisting in one of the most grueling and demanding positions in the U.S. Navy, as a SEAL sniper, Kyle believes he has the guts to jump into this world, with his head held high and his heart set on saving lives. That is until he's in the middle of it all, war, at its most violent time. Through every painful, heart-wrenching life that he takes, be it from the chaotic soldiers on the other side or simply a helpless child who is passed a grenade and told to fire, Kyle suppresses all that he can for now. With a conflicted wife (Sienna Miller) and two children calling for him to come home, Kyle is left struggling to channel one role in his life with another, as he strives to be the father his family wants him to be, but also the relentless savior his country needs him to be. 

As the new year quickly begins to consume us with new films and award season mayhem, yet another genuine, whole-hearted war film is dropped into our laps. Reminiscent of past war films like Zero Dark Thirty and Lone Survivor, which both exceeded my expectations with their in-depth thrills and fantastic performances, this year we are given American Sniper, a tale of heart-break and bravery. Probably amassing to one of the best war films I've seen in a while, the last being the Mark Wahlberg-led biopic Lone Survivor, American Sniper takes modern warfare to the next level, as well as redefining what a director can do with war in cinema. Tackling such a massive subject (both in size and in emotional depth) like Chris Kyle, American Sniper is not just another generic war film, it's an investigation into both the career and love life of this man, both equally investing. While it may convey a number of violent acts in the heart of war, from the killing of men, women, and children to the harsh interrogation methods of the U.S soldiers, there is no doubt that the emotional intensity of every character lays beneath it. Hidden until it is greatly needed, when this emotional intensity is finally released, there are no words to describe it. 

Delivering one of the greatest performances of his career, Bradley Cooper leads American Sniper with no fear, channeling his inner soldier to play the conflicted hero of Chris Kyle. Equipped with the bulking body of a soldier, as well as the Southern drawl of a cowboy, Cooper packs nearly all of his dedication into this character, becoming Kyle without hesitation. Last seen masquerading as a CGI raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, Cooper shelves his gun-wielding rodent persona for a much meatier role as this famous Navy SEAL. Performing with more audacity and commitment than his past roles, like the frantic detective in American Hustle and the mentally-unstable bum in Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper reminds the world that he is a force to be reckoned with, as he tackles this complex role of a man fighting his demons. Testing him both physically and mentally, Cooper's amazing dedication to this role is one of the main reasons why I loved this film. Putting himself into the fallen soldier's shoes for one simple yet complex film transforms not just what I can expect from Cooper as an actor, but also what brilliant directors and storytellers can do with such powerful people on the big screen. Up for an Oscar for this demanding role, I believe Cooper is definitely a massive competitor with this unforgettable performance. 

Living a life torn into two parts can be one of the most difficult things a person can go through. Living one life behind a gun, pulling out ordered kill after ordered kill, and the other life holding up a family, with a wife frightened that you won't come back alive the next day. Living a life like this can be toxic on any person, but even deadlier on the ones who can't handle it. This was the life Chris Kyle lived, one where he didn't fear death, but he feared he had to prove something to the world, to his country. Juggling a world of mindless gunfire and hopeful children waiting for him to be their father, Kyle took in what he could and stayed confident. A man tasked with killing anything that presented danger to the American soil, from a terrorist to a child, Kyle became a legend with this task, but not without the physical and emotional scars of war on his skin and on his mind. These scars, however deep and bloody they were, would pave the road of conflict for Kyle when he got home to his fretting wife. Burdened with responsibility on whatever side of the world he was on, Chris Kyle took lives and took risks as he served our country and reconstructed his family into one with a loving father in it once more. 

While it may not have been the best and brightest business he was in, ordered under the hands of his superiors to take away the lives of men, women, and children, sometimes innocent, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle put his heart and soul into his job and his country, as he saved equal amounts of the lives he ultimately took. I think, with this film, director Clint Eastwood gave great honor to both Chris Kyle, as well as the men and women facing hardships like this in times of war to this day. With a film like this, while it may depict cold acts of heartless war, it also highlights the true acts of valor that our men and women face while defending their families and the families of everyone on the United States soil. 

Overall, I thought this film was one of the most dedicated war films I've seen. Without dwelling too long on both the violent nature of war and the heart-clenching emotions of Kyle's conflicted relationship with his wife, Taya, I think American Sniper added just enough of both to make the story both believable and well-paced. In the end, Clint Eastwood delivers a profound tale of a man battling his demons, and a wife fighting to earn back the husband and father that she once knew. Even if it doesn't win those Oscars for Best Picture or Best Actor, American Sniper will remain embedded in my memory as one of both the best films of the century and the most memorable roles of Bradley Cooper. 

I gave this film a 9 out of 10 for its clear dedication to honoring this man, may he rest in peace, as well its powerful performances from both Cooper and Sienna Miller, and its emotionally-packed plot of how one man tackles the lives of an expert killer and a loving husband. If you haven't seen American Sniper, you're missing out on a great time at the theater.    

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