Rated R, 132 minutes (watched 1/19/15)
I knew going in I was probably going to like American Sniper, but I was wrong; I loved it. I’m admittedly prone to hyperbole, but it hit me like a freight train. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best movie I’ve seen in several years.
The basics of this true story have been told in the media ad nauseum in recent days. Chris Kyle joined the Navy SEALs, became the deadliest sniper in U.S. history during his tours of duty in Iraq, and was murdered by a fellow soldier he was trying to help back home in Texas. I’m reading the Kyle’s book at the moment, and for the most part the movie doesn’t stray.
But the plot points don’t matter so much as Bradley Cooper’s performance as Kyle. The man deserved his Oscar nomination and I’d put good money on his chances at winning. He nails the drawling Texas accent, and bulked up a good 30 lbs of muscle to play Kyle. Watch Coopers eyes and breathing as he stares down his scope, debating with himself whether or not to shoot a young boy aiming an RPG at U.S. soldiers.
Director Clint Eastwood is not interested in a morality tale or the politics of the Iraq war, he is merely telling the story of one man’s singular focus on serving his country and protecting his brothers in arms. That focus kept him going while he was fighting the war, but it stayed with him when he returned to his family at home. The battle scenes are as intense as any war movie I’ve seen, but it was the portrayal of Kyle’s struggle with post-war PTSD that truly stood out. Any war movie can make you feel gratitude for the sacrifice our military makes in battle, but this one shows that the sacrifices for soldier and family go on long after the honorable discharge and return to civilian life.
Sienna Miller is wonderful as Taya, Kyle’s wife, even though the movie’s clearly Cooper’s. Eastwood wonderfully captures her reactions and emotions during two phone calls with Kyle mid-firefight. You know he’s going to survive to the end, but you still hold your breath.
American Sniper is not perfect. Eastwood goes a step too far creating a fictional enemy sniper to be Kyle’s nemesis, and there the much-maligned scene where Cooper is clearly rocking a fake baby to sleep. These are extremely minor quibbles compared to the achievement that is the rest of the movie.
I’ve been told I oversold American Sniper by several friends who saw it on my recommendation. I can’t comment on why it didn’t affect them the way it did Megan and me, but I think you owe it to yourself to take the risk and see the story of a true American hero. Both times we saw it in the theater, the crowd was utterly silence as the credits rolled with no background music. I think that speaks for itself.
**Note: The movie is rated R, for language and intense battle scenes. The language is rough, but I imagine the real life words flying out of most Navy SEAL’s mouths during a firefight are not “gosh darnit” or “son of a gun.” As for the battles, it is not super gory, but you will be on the edge of your seat.
All that’s wonderful, but what’s the movie’s grade? I’m in a hurry here, buddy.
5/5. Stellar. Even re-watching the trailer has me in tears.
Where do I know that guy from?
Cooper is best known from the very much R-Rated Hangover movies. His performance in American Sniper could not be more different.
What is the star’s spirit animal?
What color socks are you wearing right now?
You should already know that Kyle was murdered after he returned home. Just before the credits, we see actual news footage of the rainy, dreary day of Kyle’s funeral. If you weren’t already in tears, you will be.
A solid 5/5. She said it was a very good and realistic war story without being too gory. Knowing it was (mostly) true made it all the more incredible.0
Heard any good jokes lately?
How many South Americans does it take to change a light bulb?
A large popcorn, a Cherry Pepsi and a Diet Pepsi.
Unrelated Word of the Day:
Malarkey: noun [muh-LAHR-kee]: speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead or impress.
Would the movie have been any better with the addition of Morgan Freeman as narrator?