‘American Sniper’ hits emotional mark

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From U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s position atop decrepit buildings in Iraq, his hidden presence seemed like anything but unknown to those in his close proximity. U.S. ground troops, going door-to-door searching for insurgents, gained confidence knowing that America’s best-ever sniper was providing them over-watch protection from high above. Enemy forces also grew to know of Kyle’s legendary marksmanship skills and close whereabouts, witnessing their al-Qaeda in Iraq members dropping dead after each single shot from Chris’ rifle. No one, however, was more aware of Chris Kyle’s presence and four tours of duty in Iraq than his wife, Taya Kyle, left behind in San Diego. It’s that marriage and relationship between Chris and Taya Kyle that “American Sniper” steadies upon, takes aim at, and, ultimately scores a direct hit for viewers. Between sighting in terrorist targets and actually pulling the trigger as Kyle, Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper must control his breathing—the same task moviegoers must master in this heart-pounding, emotional true story.

Director Clint Eastwood has made this intense, powerful war film about one subject–and one subject only–Chris Kyle. “American Sniper” is not a political movie debating the merits of U.S. involvement in Iraq or the overall mission that took place. Instead, Eastwood has kept faith with Kyle’s bestselling autobiography by the same name and put together an exceptional tribute to Chris Kyle the husband, father, son, teammate and patriotic American. It does not feel like a U.S. Navy recruiting film, a la 1986’s “Top Gun”. Instead, it graphically illustrates the repeated hardships and sacrifices mustered by our U.S. military and their families in defense of our country.

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Initially, Eastwood moves this Academy Award-nominated Best Picture at such a brisk pace that even General George S. Patton’s Third Army in France would have been proud. It’s not until after Kyle’s childhood, younger rodeo days, and completion of Navy SEAL training at the ripe old age of 30, does “American Sniper” slow down long enough to allow us to really get to know the straight-shooter and his valuable skill set; steady, aim, breathe and trigger pull.

Bradley Cooper’s 40-pound weight gain and phenomenal performance in “American Sniper” makes this his stand-alone, shining career moment so far. He meticulously displays Kyle’s disarming smile, warm personality and endless love for his wife. The genuineness of Kyle is always found in Cooper’s eyes—whether he’s beaming with joy, attempting to control his anger, or staring through a rifle’s scope. Perfectly complimenting Cooper’s potent character is the Taya Kyle role of devoted military wife and mother—effortlessly played by Sienna Miller.   Together, these two make “American Sniper” and drive the storyline home.

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“American Sniper” will squarely hit civilians in the heart and mind about the sacrifices made by so few, for so many, and for so long. With less than one-half of 1% of the American population wearing the U.S. military uniform, this film offers a snippet into the dangers of those charged with answering our nation’s call. To emphasize this crucial point, Eastwood immediately drops viewers into the combat zone during the very first scene.  An insertion outside the wire, where battlefield decisions and actions determine who survives to live another day and, perhaps, just maybe, will return to anxious family members back home.

The film acknowledges and honors the sacrifices of a special American who was charged with executing the last 2,100 yards of our national security policy.  It also responsibly and realistically portrays the extremely difficult challenges, hardships and loneliness faced by military families of deployed loved ones. While “American Sniper” offers moviegoers the most pulse-racing, intense urban combat operations since 2001’s “Black Hawk Down”, it has no rival in comparisons to highlighting the burdens assumed and carried by our military families. It also takes great care to explain and help Americans understand the emotional toll that war takes upon our warriors– particularly special operators we’re extremely fortunate to have in our nation’s arsenal and their families supporting them and us.  The Damn Few.

Grade: A-

Filed: Oscar Nominated Films, Action, Military, Suspense Thrillers

© 2015, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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