Sunday, January 18, 2015

American Sniper

Movie Name: American Sniper
Year of Release: 2014
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Eric Ladin, Jonathan Groff, Jake McDorman, Kevin Lacz, Reynaldo Gallegos, Cory Hardrict, Leonard Roberts, Kyle Gallner, Keir O'Donnell, Tim Griffin, Eric Close, Sam Jaeger
Genre: Drama, Action
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

The always prolific Clint Eastwood is back, the second of his releases from 2014 (the other being "The Jersey Boys"). The film is an adaptation of the autobiography from Chris Kyle, a veteran Navy SEAL who went on 4 tours during the most recent Iraq war. The film introduces us to Chris, growing up in Texas with his family, with a father who installed a deep sense of moral righteousness on the family. Chris grows up wanting to become a cowboy, and following up some relationship issues, signs up for the US Navy. Following a hard training, he is deployed to Iraq, where he acquires a reputation for being the best sniper on the field. His family life ends up suffering since upon his return, he's unable to adjust to the rhythms of every day life. He ends up going on 4 tours altogether, and through his work with veterans, adjusts and reintegrates to every day life.
Clint Eastwood's most recent output has been a bit uneven - his last strong features were "Changelling" and "Grand Torino", both from 2008. Since then, he has had the opportunity to tackle some really interesting material, such as J. Edgar Hoover's life, but the results have always somehow missed the mark. "American Sniper" is an interesting film, but again fails to create a sense of resonance, and that's not just due to the fact that other film makers have tackled the doom of war with a more resounding impact, but primarily due to the fact that the film seems devoid of a fresh perspective. The film brings to mind pieces of Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket", Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker", Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down" and even Michael Cimino's "The Deer Hunter". The problem is that referencing deeply iconic films, doesn't make a film have an identity of it's own - "American Sniper" tries to combine the grittiness of the war zone, with the inadequacy of life at home, but both sides of the story feel underdeveloped, particularly when they have been broached with further dramatic depth in other films. The film could have indeed ventured into some moral territories and questions that arise from some choices (that is briefly hinted as the narrative begins, but that is abandoned all too soon). The film features a good performance from Bradley Cooper, but Sienna Miller's role as his wife Taya, feels underwritten and contrived. An uneven film from a seasoned director.