American Sniper

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2014

Village Roadshow Pictures/Mad Chance Productions/22nd & Indiana Pictures/Malpaso Productions/Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Produced by Clint Eastwood-Robert Lorenz-Andrew Lazar-Bradley Cooper-Peter Morgan

Written by Jason Hall

Based on “American Sniper” by Chris Kyle-Scott McEwen-Jim DeFelice

Say whatever else you want to say about Clint Eastwood’s direction of AMERICAN SNIPER but this you have to admit: the man knows how to clearly put images up on the screen so that at no time are we unclear as to what is happening, who it’s happening to and why it’s happening to them. I would so dearly love to sit Paul Greengrass down and have him watch this movie to show him that movies can be made without the camera wildly whipping around as if the cameraman is drunk. You put your camera down firmly. You put your actors in front of the camera and let them act. What’s so hard about that?

And if your story is strong enough, you don’t need fancy camera tricks to tell it. And the story of Chris Kyle is a strong one. When we meet him, his life is aimless. But then he joins the U.S. Navy and is accepted for SEAL training. His exceptional skill at shooting a rifle paves the way to his ultimate destiny as a Navy Seal sniper.

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The movie follows Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) through four tours of duty in Iraq. He proceeds to rack up an extraordinary number of kills. So many that he earns the nickname of “Legend” Its a nickname he’d rather not have. Between his tours, he returns home to Texas and his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and their children and tries to settle down to normal life. But there is obviously something going on with Chris that he either will not or cannot verbalize. When he’s Iraq he misses his family. But when he’s in America he is filled with a guilt that turns him into an emotional cripple. Chris feels a personal obligation to take out Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) an enemy sniper whose skill and commitment to his craft is just as powerful as Chris Kyle’s. The two men have a war of strategy going on in their brief, but deadly encounters and Chris will not consider his job done until Mustafa is dead.

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Besides the outstanding direction by Clint Eastwood, the other reason to see this movie is Bradley Cooper’s amazing performance. I gotta give Mr. Cooper a standing ovation. Here’s a guy who could easily coast along on his good looks and charm. Which he has more than his share of. But he makes some very interesting acting choices ranging from the action fest “The A-Team” to science fiction thrillers like “Limitless” the romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” and the “Hangover” comedy trilogy. It’s gotten so that he’s one of those actors on my list I’ll watch in anything because even if the movie if crap *coughAmerican Hustlecough* I know without a doubt that he’ll be terrific.

I liked how he played Chris Kyle as a man who does not revel or delight in his exceptional talent at sniping. It’s a talent that saves lives, but also puts him somewhat alone. There are several instances where he leaves his post as a sniper to get down on the ground with Marine troops as they conduct house by house searches. Does Chris feel that he should be taking equal risks along with them even though those men are more than willing to go on missions knowing that “Legend” is out there with his sniper rifle watching their backs? It’s a question the movie doesn’t answer and I’m glad it doesn’t. It’s enough that the movie shows us how others view Chris and how he views himself. It’s two very different views.

I wish I could recommend the other performances as well. Sienna Miller gets to play Taya in a manner we’ve seen in a dozen other war movies. She’s got the job of staying home with the kids and being the loyal wife. The rest of the supporting cast is competent and professional, but that’s about it. There’s really no one I can single out as we never really get to know anybody else in the movie except for Chris Kyle.

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Should you see AMERICAN SNIPER? It’s a movie that has already generated a lot of heat on The Internet, but I’m not going to get into that here. I’m not here to debate the politics of this (or any) movie. I simply give my opinion on a movie’s entertainment value. And on that basis, AMERICAN SNIPER is well worth your time and money.

138 Minutes

Rated R

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6 thoughts on “American Sniper

  1. Thank you for another first-rate review, Derrick! I made a point to pre-order “John Wick” on digital after I read your review, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed! 🙂 I’m starting to rely on The Ferguson Theater for many of my own viewing choices and purchases.

    I must say, though, that I’m surprised you never addressed the major gorilla in the room criticized by so many who viewed “American Sniper”: The blatantly obvious fake baby used in two scenes! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I did see a clip of one of the scenes where the fake baby was shown, and… well, if not for your review, I would have avoided seeing the movie entirely because of that. I have to agree with the sentiments echoed by so many viewers: What was Clint thinking!? I am aware of the difficult rules regarding real infants in films shot in Cali, but it’s not like those scenes were long! I must respectfully disagree with anyone who claims I’m nit-picking here; not after seeing that clip!

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/american-snipers-fake-baby-mocked-764702

    1. If everybody else is mentioning it then why should I? I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t important enough for me to mention it in my review. And if that’s the only thing people can find to nitpick about then that must mean the movie got a whole lot of other things right.

      1. Well, it wasn’t the only thing about the movie that people were complaining about, to be fair. A lot of it was the political stuff you understandably don’t want to get into. That was simply one of the most flagrant things I’ve heard about, and which I actually saw a clip in regards to, hence I could personally attest to it. I commend you for your ability to overlook a “gorilla in the room” like that, Derrick, but I confess to not being able to do so myself. As great a director as Mr. Eastwood is, I believe he deserves to get taken to task for this, and precisely because he’s a good director who shouldn’t have made a cost-cutting measure like this that distracted viewers and detracted from the overall quality of the film. That’s just my opinion!

      2. As you said, Mr. Eastwood is a great director and I’m not about to throw out an entire 2 hr + movie on the basis of one brief scene that takes up less than two minutes of screen time. if it spoiled the movie for other people, that’s too bad. It didn’t spoil it for me and for me it wasn’t enough of a distraction for me to mention in my review.

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