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American Sniper
Genre War

American Sniper is a biographical war action drama based on Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's four tours of duty, the pinpoint accuracy that made him a legend and the unfettered patriotism that almost derailed his family. Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of our Fathers director, Clint Eastwood, has created a striking film with a garbled message starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Kyle Gallner.

The movie poster for American Sniper features a star-spangled banner waving in the foreground of our sniper hero played by Bradley Cooper. Yet, we're not sure if he's standing on the ground or on top of a building looking down. Whether intentional or not, the film is just as ambivalent, trying to say "war is human" but disorientates itself in the process.

The one edge of the sword presents a war hero's story with parallels to the movie-within-a-movie in Inglourious Basterds, recounting a sniper's battlefield glory. Kyle's feats of bravery and his sharpshooting make him "the most lethal sniper in U.S. history" and while Eastwood doesn't crack the realistic tension of Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, it feels like a strong influence. The glorification of his achievements would make you think American Sniper was some sort of undercover propaganda or military recruitment exercise to agitate and inspire young Americans to action.

The other edge to American Sniper presents a sobering character study of Kyle's life, not unlike Dallas Buyer's Club. Both films start in a similar fashion, except instead of struggling with HIV and AIDs, our combatant finds himself burdened by the weight of freedom and the American way of life. His legend status and god view "disease" is that he's eagle-eyed and can't stop risking his life (and family) for his country and fellow countrymen, with a special mission to take out an Olympic shooter turned enemy sniper named Mustafa.

American Sniper flips the sword again and again to the point that you're not sure, which edge you're seeing. We understand Kyle's pinpoint accuracy makes him an invaluable asset to his team but feel at odds about his relentless and selfless mission into enemy territory. The irony of him sacrificing peace at home to fight the good fight becomes a necessary evil and here is where the greatest tension of American Sniper lies.

Bradley Cooper delivers an unusual Bradley Cooper performance, adding extra muscle and weight to portray Kyle and subduing the charm and twinkle to literally play a dead eye. He's denying himself in this performance, taking on a role that you'd usually associate with someone like Channing Tatum. We buy into the character as a reluctant Captain America. Unfortunately, the purposeful detachment keeps his inner world off-limits and our emotional investment at bay.

Cooper represents Eastwood's uneasy dichotomy, which is both a strength and weakness for American Sniper. The strong production values, authentic wardrobe, props and realistic action set pieces transport us to the kill-or-be-killed scenarios, appeasing war action video game junkies with head shots, zooms, high-powered ballistics and even a jarring bullet time moment. Yet, the clichés surrounding Kyle's romantic and married life are less convincing with Cooper's numb performance providing continuity.

You can applaud Cooper for taking his career to the next level with a focused performance, portraying an American hero. You can appreciate Eastwood's vision for the film, despite it feeling like a blend of Dallas Buyers Club, The Hurt Locker with dabs of Enemy at the Gates. You can even be entertained by American Sniper's mix of war action and domestic drama. However, it's ambivalent to the point of being an oxymoron - which simultaneously adds and subtracts to create something new... something that doesn't reach its full potential.

The bottom line: Detached

6.00/10 ( 1 Vote )
Hits: 1975
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