“Do you ever think about how you’ll feel when there’s another person at the end of that gun?” says Taya (Sienna Miller) to Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), training to be a Navy SEAL sharpshooter. “I don’t know,” he says. “I just hope I can do my job when the time comes.” He does, and ranks as the US military’s most accomplished marksman. But after four tours in Iraq, can he leave the war behind? That’s the question in this compelling biopic.
Academy-Award nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor (Cooper), “American Sniper” will call to mind 2008’s Best Picture, also set in the Iraq War, “The Hurt Locker.” Lots to talk about comparing these two serious action films.
Bradley Cooper, famously 40 pounds heavier for the role, is Chris Kyle whom we follow from boyhood to return from Iraq. Like “Unbroken’s” (2014) tight focus on World War II hero Louis Zamperini, “American Sniper” tells Kyle’s remarkable story with minimum reference to the war and its politics. What we do get, largely from Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller’s (as wife Taya) excellent performances, is a sense of how Kyle’s horrific experiences affected their marriage. Cooper is terse, letting anxiety and tension register on his face. Sienna Miller has a more dramatic part, expressing her frustration verbally. “Even when you’re here,” she says, “you’re not here. I have no one to share the children with. You can only circle in the plane so long.”
Others in the accomplished cast include Ben Reed and Elise Robertson as parents Wayne and Debby Kyle. In the world, says Kyle’s father, are sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. “No sheep in this family; no predators. We protect our own.” A lesson for son Chris. Keir O’Donnell is brother Jeff. Mido Hamada is “The Butcher,” Iraqi sniper. Robert Clotworthy is a perceptive VA doctor.
“American Sniper” is a taut and tightly-focused biopic, tracking military marksman Chris Kyle’s adult life. Expertly directed by Clint Eastwood, with Jason Hall’s script from Kyle’s book, it’s a war story with tense and gripping Iraqi episodes, in which Kyle must make almost instantaneous life-and-death decisions. The sequence that begins with a shared meal and ends in a firefight, and the final battle, shrouded in a sandstorm, are stand-outs.
Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, pervasive language and sexual references, “American Sniper” runs 132 minutes. Adult fare that ought to be discussed on the way home.
Navy SEAL sharpshooter
Has four tours in Iraq;
Reluctant to come home —
Can he make it back?