Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
There is something that genuinely fascinates me about Clint Eastwood. The legendary Actor/Director is well into his 80s, and has not even hinted that he might be slowing down on his theatrical output. Since his Oscar wins for Million Dollar Baby ten years ago, Eastwood has made nine(!) Movies, all in varying genres and time periods. That’s pretty spectacular for someone who got famous playing a Man with no name. Even more impressive is that less than a year after releasing his Adaptation of the Broadway Musical Jersey Boys, Eastwood has delivered the Iraq Wartime-Action/Drama, American Sniper.
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) wants to be a Cowboy, but is not all that great at it. While drinking one evening, he watches news of terrorist attacks and is inspired to join the Navy. He is older than most recruits, but his passion is unwavering. And after deploying to Iraq post 9/11, he quickly becomes a Legend with his Sniper Rifle, claiming the Title of the “most lethal sniper in U.S. History”.
I will be honest that I haven’t been much a Fan of most Eastwood-directed Films, but I enjoyed American Sniper more than I would like to admit. It is obvious from the start that Eastwood has a reverence for the real life Hero and his Story, and that bleeds into how enjoyable the Film quickly becomes. Watching Cooper beyond the scope of a rifle may not sound like much, but Eastwood makes it feel fresh and downright riveting in almost every instance. Giving a lot of emphasis on Kyle’s home life with Wife Taya (Sienna Miller) brings a human element that goes a long way for the Character. The Film may never even attempt for the adrenaline shot intensity of Best Picture Winner The Hurt Locker, but there is a certain nuance to American Sniper that makes it feel just as relevant.
American Sniper is not without flaws, excessive Patriotism aside. For some reason, a key moment late in the Film becomes almost-laughable by allowing Cooper and Miller to converse while taking care of an obviously-plastic baby – out of place tonally after keeping us deeply-engaged throughout. Another pivotal scene should be a triumphant one, but is hindered by deliberate slow motion and hyper-realism. These are just two small examples, but baffling ones.
Cooper, with his near-unrecognizable Southern accent, is remarkable from beginning to end. This is his deepest and most emotional performance to date, and he ensures you feel every ounce of pain, terror and anguish that Kyle feels. He makes the most of every single scene, even when Eastwood tries not to focus on the trauma haunting Kyle after his tours in Iraq (which sometimes feels gleamed-over). It is a very lived-in performance, and likely the best of what appears to be a long career ahead. Miller is great in her small doses as well, but feels overshadowed even for a Character with second billing.
While some will contend with some of the facts presented about Kyle, Eastwood has crafted a thrilling and genuinely moving Piece in American Sniper. He may push the propaganda and patriotism a bit too far in some instances, with occasional plodding, but Cooper’s wonderful performance saves the Film in every way. And that scoreless Finale? Downright chilling.
Warner Bros. Pictures Canada release AMERICAN SNIPER on Friday, January 16, 2015.
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