AMERICAN SNIPER REVIEW

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Has Bradley Cooper got that Oscar in his sights? Only one way to find out . . .

Clint Eastwood delivers a riveting, if overlong, war biopic on the most lethal sniper in US history.

Bradley Cooper in one word. Fantastic.

I have been impressed by his versatility and range. To be able to go from The Hangover to American Hustle. His performances continue to surprise. As does this one.

The 132 minute length does test you a little in parts but every time I felt my eyes wandering, there was a revelation or a battle sequence to bring me back into the action.

It’s not perfect by any means BUT certainly one of the better ones.

The cinematography by Tom Stern (a regular Eastwood stalwart) provided a grainy murkiness to the Iraqi war zone. The panning shots as we followed the troops through the labyrinthine cityscape (now an open battlefield) got me right in the thick of it.

I couldn’t believe how much Cooper looked like Chris Kyle. Bulking up for the role and delivering a dusky drawl. A deserved nomination.

A simple cowboy who decided one day to become a SEAL. There were moments where I felt the whole ‘Murica spiel was a little schmaltzy for me BUT hey, that’s the cynic talking. I respect the man for his patriotism and that’s what he was. A patriot. He wanted to fight for his country. People have fought for less. So make of that what you will.

It didn’t spoil or hamper the film for me. The first act zipped along quite well. The opening certainly grabs your attention with Kyle having to make a serious judgement call involving a young boy and a suspected weapon.

It flicks back and forth showing his life as a young boy, his days as a cowboy and his SEALs training. The training montage was covered extensively in the opening of Lone Survivor BUT it was good to see the cast go through the process.

To be honest, I was happy to see more of this. It zipped along a little too quickly. It didn’t really put Kyle’s father in the best light. A stern man who wants his sons to be sheepdogs NOT wolves. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me in the film. Nothing a good belting won’t straighten out.

It certainly gave you a sense of the man Kyle would become but maybe a little bit more depth would have been better.

The sniper sequences were tense and riveting. Seeing it through the POV of Kyle’s scope was harrowing and brutal. Hardly original to the Call of Duty nuts but effective.

There were moments of horror and suspense. It certainly plays the ethics card. Split second decisions that could save or kill the unit. Decisions I couldn’t even imagine making. Some heart in mouth stuff.

The sandstorm sequence was exhilarating. Some would argue that it was shot terribly but that’s kind of the point. You couldn’t see a thing. You couldn’t tell who was your enemy and in an ambush?! Words fail me.

I felt Eastwood spent a little too much time on the unit dynamic with a supporting cast that for a majority of the time either kept changing or were hardly that memorable. This was where marks got knocked down. I know this is Kyle’s story but there aren’t many who get a look in, including his own wife.

Sienna Miller was very good as Taya Kyle. She had great chemistry with Cooper. I never rated Miller’s past roles; the sex pot. But we got to see some actual acting from the gal. She nailed the accent and played it really well. I would have liked to see more of her. (No, not like that. Acting wise. Honest!)

I wanted more of the family dynamic. The last act does focus on that which certainly hits home by the closing minutes. BUT (for example) I wanted a little more explanation on Kyle’s brother, Jeff. Someone who we followed, with Chris, for a good 30-40 minutes of the film who then disappears without a real reason.

You get a general idea of what happened by how Jeff acts after his first tour in Iraq BUT it would have been nice to see him again, a passing comment OR at least a mention in the closing credits.

You can see Kyle’s dedication soon become an obsession. The more tours he embarks on, the harder the strain on his family. It certainly doesn’t paint Kyle as the all American patriot. Intent on catching The Butcher (Mido Hamada) and a (free-running) sniper hell bent on claiming the bounty of the legendary sniper felt like a morbid competition.

I’m a little concerned that Hamada and Navid Negahban (Homeland) have become typecast in the terrorist roles. They both play them so well but still . . .

Kyle’s re-adjustment into civilian life was heartbreaking. Every little sound keeping him on edge. His inability to cope. It was captured well and was subtle in it’s approach. The legend around him taking its toll.

This is where I became more engrossed. The final 30 minutes unearthed more on the treatment of the returning veteran and allowed for some harrowing statements.

I felt the CGI left a little to be desired. Cooper superimposed on a bull and the deer really stuck out. Also, don’t let the fake baby put you off. If you’re thinking, “What?” and are not aware of this; there is a scene in which Cooper is supposed to be holding his daughter and it is the worst fake baby I’ve seen. BUT don’t let this little plastic prop spoil what was a well acted scene.

This may not be the best war film. It’s tough not to compare it to so many other classics BUT it hooked me for the majority of the time (A challenge in itself) and by the closing minutes it got to me. I don’t want to spoil the film too much because I want people to see this.

BUT now, I find my loyalties torn on the Best Actor category now. I have to agree after seeing the majority of the Oscar nominated pics (Whiplash this week! EXCITED!) that the right people have been chosen this time around (Tatum should have got a nod BUT that’s another review 😉

With all the Oscar excitement, Cooper has to ask himself one thing. Does he feel lucky? Well . . .

If my pick loses, then I wouldn’t complain if Cooper took his place.

A sterling performance from a fantastic actor and an engaging, if flawed, biopic makes this one worth taking a shot.

3.5/5

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