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Film Review: 'American Sniper'

Grayson Abele |
January 18, 2015 | 10:11 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Bradley Cooper plays U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Twitter/@Variety)
Bradley Cooper plays U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Twitter/@Variety)
Well we've arrived here at last: the final arguably Oscar-worthy film has arrived in theatres and so the question surrounding it is whether or not 2014 will end with a bang.

In this case, "Oscar-worthy" is used more in the sense that the buzz surrounding "American Sniper" lauded it as a best picture contender long before it was released, but the same was said for the film "Unbroken" which ended up being a fine movie but a relative disappointment that was mostly snubbed in the nominations. So "American Sniper" being a great movie wasn't necessarily a given, so the fact that it is a great movie is appreciated.

Where "American Sniper" excels is at balancing all of the pertinent aspects of the film in such a way that it makes an enthralling movie-going experience. Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, a ranch-hand turned Navy Seal who bleeds patriotism. The film follows Kyle on his multiple tours in Iraq and the effect that each tour has on his personality. However, the film also sets aside a respectable amount of time to show Kyle's past and his life at home in between the tours as well as his relationship with his wife, played by Sienna Miller, and that is where the film starts its balancing act.

"American Sniper" is not a movie about war, it is a movie about war's effect on the human psyche. Rather than present Kyle as a small piece of a very large machine as most war films tend to do, the film presents the war as a backdrop for Kyle's life. Soldiers occasionally voice their concerns about the viability of American interference in Iraq, especially towards the end, but the film still manages to capture their sense of patriotism extremely well.

The movie handles its gunfights well and they are sufficiently action-packed enough to capture the anarchy of Urban Warfare, but every gunfight is punctuated by scenes of Kyle simply going about his daily routine and subtly showing his evolution over time. It all comes together to paint an intricate portrait of Kyle's complicated emotions over time and how he changes under the stresses of war. A brief nod to Bradley Cooper who does an excellent job of capturing the emotion of a person who appears very stoic at first glance. 

In any case, Chris Kyle's story is fascinating and the film captures his story well. And personally, in a year of questionable quality for film it is great to end on such a high note with a film who has certainly earned its place among the Best Picture nominees.

Reach staff reporter Grayson Abele here.



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