War movies are never easy to make or digest, especially when they are based on a true story. And where a lot of directors fail (Hello George Clooney), Clint Eastwood doesn’t. To be honest, American Sniper caught me off-guard, for when I was expecting a cliché Iraq flick, it proved to be otherwise.
This is the real story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the US military sniper with the most confirmed kills, as he decides to join the Navy Seals after 9/11, meets his future wife, and finally serves four tours in Iraq.
The first thing worth mentioning is the film’s lack of the geopolitics surrounding the war in Iraq and its outcomes. Instead of trying to teach us the US version of the conflict, Eastwood and the writers focus on what they should focus on, and that’s Chris Kyle. This isn’t a movie about the US ‘heroics’ on Iraqi soil, but is one about a single Navy Seal’s life, convictions and relationships. It’s more of a character study than it is a story. That said, knowing exactly what to tell us and where it counts produces Eastwood solid ground on which to build his movie, and it all works out well.
As for Eastwood himself, then the 84 year-old director proved himself as a decent one. Although his directing still present some flaws, like the cliché scenes of the bad guy, the action sequences the man delivers were thrilling, gritty and downright outstanding. Eastwood gets even the ones who formerly know the story at the edge of their seats and keeps them for a rather important chunk of the film.
The star of the film, however, is Bradley Cooper whose transition from the goofy actor previously known to the impressive Oscar contender is now complete. His subtle representation of Chris Kyle is a powerful one, as Cooper not only brings Kyle to the big screen, but also convinces the audience of every emotion or lack of emotions felt by the sniper on the battlefield and at home.
American Sniper is not a great movie, but it’s a seriously good one. Far from being a cliché Iraq war flick, the film is a character study and treats itself as such, yet still delivers some of the most thrilling war scenes of modern cinema. Eastwood proves he knows what he’s doing behind the camera, and Cooper confirms he was born to be in front of it. Chapeau bas to both.
Rating: 8.0/10. A thrilling character study with a powerful character portrayal.