American Sniper is an intense war film that combines elements of a character study and biography to form a very interesting look at a real life hero. The duo of Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper is an extremely effective one, as it provides a realistically depicted, yet still engaging adaptation of a real life story.
Clint Eastwood is clearly established as one of the finest directors of all time, and American Sniper is yet another film to put on his ongoing list of remarkable films. Eastwood’s style of directing gives a complex look at the life of Chris Kyle, and utilizes multiple timelines and events to effectively establish character development and conflict. While some of the film’s flashbacks are strangely paced, they do a good job at setting up major ideas without direct exposition. The film’s editing also works extremely well, as the transition between Kyle’s life at home and at war are sparsely paced and blend well together.
Eastwood also displays a remarkable skill for creating tension. The film’s action sequences never drag into a blockbuster feel, and give an on-screen realism that ranks among such films as Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. However, American Sniper works on a much more personal level that tests character morality and decisions as much as the evasion of danger, which in turn keeps the audience more invested in the storyline. This level of character depth transcends the war scenes to the quieter and more emotional moments, which is also a testament to the film’s incredible lead performance.
Bradley Cooper has always been a major acting talent, and American Sniper provides his best performance yet. While Cooper has had his share of comedic roles, he is taken completely seriously in the film and carries the film’s emotional weight in brilliant fashion. The extremely physical role is very convincing on Cooper’s part, as is his excellent chemistry will co-star Sienna Miller. Also remarkable is the change and development that Cooper brings to his portrayal of Chris Kyle; while the abundance of plot can usually become a barrier to character development in war films, the overarching themes of the film overshadow individual plotlines, and provide an effectively haunting look at the character. The film does an excellent job at establishing the influences and elements that affected Kyle’s life, and concludes in a way that resolves emotionally.
Jason Hall’s screenplay also plays a big part in the film’s success. Dialogue between characters feels very natural, especially regarding the comradery between Kyle and his team. While this is definitely Cooper’s film, the strong supporting characters provide ample opportunity for interaction, and even gives the film a side of humor that isn’t distracting from its obviously dramatic intent. The look at post dramatic stress disorder and its effect on natural life is particularly haunting, but never dilutes into a political message or other agenda. Similar to the previously reviewed The Imitation Game, the film does delve into the real life tragedy, yet still is celebratory of a greater success.
American Sniper is a brilliantly executed and strongly acted character study that benefits from the great collaboration of Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper. The engaging storylines and memorable exchanges make for a satisfying bio and a great war film. Grade: -A