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Star – Bradley Cooper
Genre – Action
Run Time – 133minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Oscars – 1 Win 6 Nominations
Awards – 14 Wins and 33 nominations.
Amazon – £6.99 DVD £9.99 Blue Ray
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There is a thing in America where the US Military will lend film and TV studios their kit - for a fee - if they portray the US military in a positive light. Mix that with that ubiquitous American patriotic jingoism and a lot of war movies over there are somewhat bias. Add Clint Eastwood as director and you are going to have a right wing polemic on the military that please a whole lot of Americans in the flyover states. There is no doubt American Sniper only really puts one point of view forward on the Iraq war. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie or anything. Not only do winners rewrite history but Hollywood does to, it seems.
The film is based on the biography of Navy Seal Chris Kyle, an American sniper who had over 160 confirmed kills in Iraq on various tours of duty. He wrote a book about his experiences and joined writer Jason Hall to turn it into a screenplay. He insisted on working on that screenplay, presumably to inflate, not deflate, his legacy. This film certainly did that. The movie portrays him protecting both US soldiers and civilians on the ground in Iraq with his deadeye accuracy, picking off the bad guys, and girls - and the occasional kids, making life or death decisions on how dangerous the people look in his scope. Somewhat ironically Chris was shot dead by a fellow Iraq veteran at a Texas gun project he had set up at the local VA to give disabled soldiers more confidence, guys also suffering mental issues from the war. Chris died just as the screenplay was being finalized and so a very different movie was decided on with a rapid rewrite, his widow Kelly agreeing for the film project to continue.
Kyle is painted as an uncomplicated patriotic hero in the film. Other commentators have said Kyle is probably not the guy in the film and started to enjoy killing Iraqis and may even been a serial killer to get such a high number of kills, and so the lust to go back tour after tour. They do say people who don’t function well in normal society function very well in the war theatre, the message in Apocalypse Now. We do know that soldiers have returned from Iraq and said they basically shot at anyone to stay alive as they were so terrified that the Iraqi population would kill them. As we have seen with recent mass killings in America - the gun is still the arbiter of whether you live or die when you run into a guy that has issues or loses his rag. Clint Eastwood is very much pro firearm in America, as is his movie.
There was no doubt there was an appetite by the American public to see Eastwood’s version of events of Kyle’s life and the war. The film did a record $100 million in January and $545 million to date. The movie saw star Bradley Cooper became only the tenth male actor to land three consecutive Oscar nominations. I was amazed the number was as high as ten. Three in a row is no mean feat. He was previously nominated for American Hustle (2013) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). With American Sniper's box office success, Bradley Cooper has now been in 3 of the top 5 highest grossing R-rated movies of all time, the other two being The Hangover and The Hangover Part II. It is the third consecutive year Bradley Cooper has starred in a Best Picture-nominated film, and the second consecutive year that its title contains the word "American." Previously, he starred in American Hustle (2013). He is the hottest Hollywood star since Tom Cruise.
Bradley Cooper ... Chris Kyle
Kyle Gallner ... Goat-Winston
Cole Konis ... Young Chris Kyle
Sienna Miller … Taya Renae Kyle
Ben Reed ... Wayne Kyle
Mido Hamada as "The Butcher"
Elise Robertson ... Deby Kyle
Luke Sunshine ... Young Jeff Kyle
Brandon Salgado Telis ... Bully
Keir O'Donnell ... Jeff Kyle
Sammy Sheik’….s Mustafa, Iraqi sniper Juba
We begin with a young Kyle (Cole Konis) out shooting with his dad (Ben Reed) and bagging his first deer, a natural sharpshooter. Growing up in Texas his dad firmly teaches his boys to stand up for themselves and beat down bullies and protect others. Kyle is good at that.
All grown up and Chris (Bradley Cooper) is working on the rodeo. His girl just cheated on him and he is restless for something more in life. With the growing terror threat in the late 1990s he decides to join the Navy Seals as a sniper to help protect his country. In a bar pretty brunette Tanya (Sienna Miller) is attracted to his machismo and patriotism and soon his wife. But 911 happens just after their honeymoon and Bush blames Iraq and off the Seals go, six confirmed kills on his Kyle’s first tour.
We repeatedly cut back from his extremely pressured soldier’s life in Iraq to his wife and home life in Texas, with her and apart, as the tours and kills stack up as the missed family moments. The contrast of his comestic life and fighting in Iraq takes a toll on him and more distant from his wife and new born kid, especially when he is tasked with a group of Special Forces guys to take out the feared Butcher of Iraq (Mido Hamada), who likes to kill informers with a house drill. He is also determined to take out Iraq’s top marksman, Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), an ex Syrian Olympic shooter, who finds a new sport of killing Americans in Fallujah. If he can win that battle then maybe he is ready to come home. But with a bounty of $185,000 dollars on Kyle’s back he may not return home.
However much propaganda, religion sparing and patriotism going on here the film is still tense, taught and entertaining. It’s a lot better than that irritating and overrated and silly bomb disposal film The Hurt Locker. In a way American Sniper follows the same themes of The Hurt Locker of bombastic American soldiers addicted to war on that cocktail of ‘hooo haaaa’ machismo. In one scene two Seals pay darts on each others backs with a target penned on. But if you open fire on civilians exhausted by war with an MI6 it’s hardly heroic. And, of course, with these prolific war hero’s you are celebrating them for killing Muslims and not getting killed by them, Eastwood more than happy to wave the bible around in his film. To stay in the war theatre and keep returning you have to be a bit of a sadist and enjoy your work or, at least, be addicted to it, dehumanized and motivated. Not all of Kyle’s 160 kills would have been combatants. Clint is not interested in that side of things.
In the screenplay liberties have been taken, the rival Syrian sniper somewhat fictional in context and added purely to drive the film forward and used as a more a palatable excuse why Kyle stayed out there. The other side did create a mysterious sniper called ‘Jaba’ during the war, some of his ‘alleged’ 456 kills of Americans shown on YouTube videos to motivate insurgents. It was never proved either way that he existed but a lot of American soldiers were picked off by snipers.
The film and Eastwood, alas, did not want to explore the idea that Kyle simply enjoyed killing. That would have made a far more interesting film and put America in the dock over the disgusting Iraq War, the same way The Hurt Locker backed off taking blame for hideous foreign policy. Eastwood lazily paints Kyle as a good guy doing his duty and everyone he shot being very bad.
Bradley Cooper is good actor and saves the film from being rather too silly, really throwing himself at the role to bag that hatrick of Oscar nominations and make Kyle interesting and watchable on screen. Bradley bulked up to Kyle’s weight and muscle build and could standing lift 450lbs, serious weight. And for that performance you are convinced and cajoled to stay with the movie and hope you learn something about this guy and why he wanted to keep killing. You don’t. And fair play to Sienna Miller. I had no idea she is the wife in the movie and that’s always a good sign in a performance, a cracking Texas accent.
Its standard two hours plus Oscar chasing running time although its $545 million gross suggested punters were actually satisfied with an Oscar nominated movie for once. The Academy opened up the Best Film category to ten movies for exactly this type of populist movie to be included, and hard not to agree. I have watched countless tedious Oscar winning movies of late. American Sniper is not one of them; the most mainstream Oscar nominated film I have seen since The Hurt Locker and a hell of a lot better.
Imdb.com – 7.3/10.0 (279,657votes)
Rottentomatos.com –72% critic’s approval
Metacriitc.com – 72% critic’s approval
===Special Features on Blue Ray===
-The Soldiers Story: The journey of an American Hero.
An interesting behind the scenes look at the film and the real Kyle is noticeable for not having much on the real Kyle. I’m sensing only his wife was keen on the movie after he was shot. Eastwood and the writers try to explain away to camera the religious symbolisms and Kyle being painted as the complete hero and we don’t really learn anything new about Kyle. The better movie on the psyche of a sniper would be The Hunt with Willem Defoe.
Looks amazing in Blue Ray on my smart TV. I feel HD TV has really saved the home movie experience after Blockbusters went bust and the film experience has been enhanced. The local library is the last place you can really rent films on the highstreet now and so the DVD film experience is more a weekly treat now and so you tend to go for the blockbusters. But all films look sharp and sexy in Blue Ray and HD and so if you haven’t yet got a smart TV then now is the time.
In These Times –‘Hindsight will, I think, bruise American Sniper badly; consider how a patriotic film about a voluminously homicidal American soldier in Vietnam would play today’.
Chicago Sun Times –‘Although Cooper succeeds in resembling and sounding like the real Kyle, this isn't some cheap impersonation trick. Cooper gives maybe the best performance of his career’.
Cambridge Day –‘There's little doubt as to Chris Kyle's commitment as a protector of his country or as a father, but when the film ends, the definition of who Chris Kyle was remains a mystery’.
The Mail –‘On combat as it exists today, and on its often unconsidered damage to combatants as well as to innocent civilians, Eastwood has managed an exciting and a true and a sad sobering piece’.
The Independent –‘A complicated movie about an uncomplicated man, American Sniper strips down and rearranges Chris Kyle's best-selling autobiography into something far more troubled and unsettling’.
Arizona News –‘What elevates American Sniper is that we feel what Chris and his fellow soldiers feel in more ways than simple revenge. We feel their pain, their confusion and their weariness’.
Rolling Stone –‘It's an existential critique of violent machismo that doubles as a celebration of violence’.