Movie Review #941
|Limited release on December 25, 2014. Nationwide release on January 16, 2015. Action/Biography/Drama. This film is rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references. Runs 132 minutes. An American production. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Jason Hall. Based on a book by Chris Kyle and Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Kyle Gallner, Ben Reed, Keir O’Donnell, Kevin Lacz, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Sammy Sheik, Mido Hamada, Sam Jaeger, and Chance Kelly.|
IT HITS THE TARGET, JUST NOT THE BULL’S EYE.
By Alexander Diminiano
Clint Eastwood is a good director, but also an overrated one. Sure, there’s many films he’s made behind the camera that I thoroughly enjoyed–however, a good director gives us something for us to enjoy, whereas a great director gives us something for us to marvel at. With the exception of “Letters from Iwo Jima”, I’ve reacted to every Eastwood-directed movie the same way. Entertained, but expecting just a bit more.
My reaction has remained unchanged as of “American Sniper”. This film really connects with the emotions with its audience. The true story it recounts proves unmistakably poignant and exciting through Jason Hall’s screenplay. But how much of the screenplay was cut from the final product, I wonder? My immediate reaction once the credits started rolling was a disbelieving “That’s all?”
It’s important to note that the title is “American Sniper”. The keyword is not “sniper,” and if it were, we wouldn’t have such an emotionally built movie. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) may be the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, with 160 reported kills, and likely many more. But he doesn’t relish this statistic at all. In fact, what makes Kyle a respectable hero in “American Sniper” is that he dedicates himself to his country. This is a true patriot, a man who would never lay a finger on another human being if it weren’t to protect the United States of America. What’s saddest about this is watching Kyle come home from each tour of duty. He serves in four of them over in Iraq, and he never manages to return to his family as the same man he was before the war. Bradley Cooper performs convincingly as the man afflicted by post-traumatic stress disorder–the man who can never come home from war except physically.
“American Sniper” its well into both the war and anti-war genres, but at the end of the day, it’s neither. At least this isn’t an account of the Iraq War like “The Hurt Locker” was, because it reaches its narrative on a far more personal level. Chris Kyle is a soldier, a war hero, a product of nationalism, but beneath that, he’s a man no less ordinary than you and me.
The first half of the credits at the end overlay footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral. After “Taps” finishes, the rest of the credits appear as the conventional white text on a black background, but without any music. You could hear a pin drop, but I doubt anyone will drop one in the theater; I guarantee that at least 75% will observe the solemn moment of silence. It’s the defining moment of this film, the moment we realize that Clint Eastwood has achieved both of the two things he came to direct in the first place–he effectively delivers a nationalist message, and he pays sincere tribute to the fallen war hero. I honor Eastwood’s intentions with the film, but they do slow the film down in places. There’s scenes here that contribute to the overall message in “American Sniper”, but they feel irrelevant to the overall plot. I’m not saying that 2 hours, 12 minutes is long, but it feels like it when a whole ten minutes should be cut out for pacing. “American Sniper” is Eastwood’s third consecutive biography film, following “J. Edgar” (2011) and his adaptation of “Jersey Boys” (2014). He’s done a few more over the years, as well. While “American Sniper” is a fine movie, it’s also Clint Eastwood’s 34th time behind the camera. One would think he’d have mastered the biopic genre after four and a half decades of directing, but he still has a little bit of work to do.