Sunday, September 25, 2016

American Sniper (2015) Review:

When it comes to war in general, the concept has taken many forms for different films. Some glorify it to no end while others give their audiences an understanding of certain tragic events that occurred at specific times. Whatever the case, viewers should understand that war is an act that no right minded individual wants to pursue. However when it comes to protecting others, there are only select groups of people who know that joining the military, navy, police force, firefighters or what have you is the only way to do it. The people who join these groups are the ones who are humble enough to put their own lives at risk for the sake of others. It's these kinds of people that deserve the highest of respect because of their contributions to our safety. And for every war, there have always been decorated war heroes. Most recently the biggest name to be spoken of was Chris Kyle, a registered sniper with 150 plus kills during his time in the service. To most, that is an astounding and an unheard of record.

Forget the Sniper (1993) franchise, this guy's for real
Based on the autobiography of the same name, the movie follows the life of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) from buckaroo cowboy to an all out killing machine. Adapting the book was Jason Hall, the writer to Spread (2009) and Paranoia (2013). The intriguing part to this is that Hall really turned himself around as a writer. Both Spread (2009) and Paranoia (2013) were critically panned when they were released. This production on the other hand was the highest grossing film in January in many years. Perhaps it was in due part that Clint Eastwood served as the director to the movie. Either way the script has several areas to consider that prove to be why the film was so successful when it was released. What moved Kyle to joining the military was after seeing the 9/11 attacks and from there on he was determined to help protect his country and the people who shared his feelings. What's also important to note is that Hall's script includes Kyle's wife Taya (Sienna Miller). Together her subplot represented another critical issue - PTSD.

For several combatants who enter the field, many do not come back the same way they entered. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is shown in this movie as a layered issue. That's an important point to make because it's not always one event that can cause it. Sometimes it's a culmination of things. This is especially compelling because of the realistic situations that are setup. Some scenes that are depicted in this movie are not what many films would dare to show nowadays. It's a very touchy topic but this is what elevates the tension. Finally after dealing with all these morbid situations, it's difficult to return home and feel the exact same way previously. This is shown properly through Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller's interactions with each other. As separate thespians, Bradley Cooper practically fully embodies Kyle and that means every aspect. Also not once does Cooper raise his voice, he's always very soft-spoken. Miller on the other hand shows how she gets concerned for Kyle even though she knows he's doing the right thing.

Another interesting aspect about Kyle is the fact that he never asked for or reveled in his status as "The Legend" that everybody loved to call him. Cooper played Kyle as a guy just trying to do what was right. He didn't care about the awards or nicknames, he was there to protect others and that was it. There was one writing flub within the execution though. Chris Kyle's brother Jeff (Keir O'Donnell) changes motivational views on war; the character and topic is never addressed again. It seems that including Chris Kyle's brother was important enough to start out with but then as one brother develops the other fades away. If this was the plan, why even bother including Chris' brother? And this wasn't the plan, why was his character arc cut out of the final print? It doesn't make sense. As mentioned before the tension is pretty high due to the realistic imagery and violence. The kill shots are thankfully not as ridiculously outlandish as the action in other films like Sniper: Reloaded (2011). They do contain blood but it's mild and that's how it should be.

Sienna Miller
Tom Stern was credited as the director of photography to this movie. Stern has also done camerawork for films like The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and The Hunger Games (2012). For this feature, Stern has a number of wide scope panning shots that display the type of terrain and settings that veterans of the military had to withstand. Along side that are the confusing number of houses each team had to check and evacuate when it came to sectioned off areas. Stern was also able to show just how dangerous tasks like these are because of how easily hidden the enemy can be. Strangely enough one strategic element that was mainly absent through the running time was an appropriate musical score. For the 2 hour long movie there were a few synth bass and short piano cues but none of them stood out. Either the music was borrowed or composed by an uncredited composer. Either way the movie mostly works even without the score, but it perhaps could have been even more memorable if it had a recognizable theme to it. Oh well, their loss I guess.

The script has one minor problem with a character and the music is surprisingly mute but in its entirety, the movie makes out fine. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the legendary sniper is worthy of playing the veteran, the realistic war scenes are quite tense and the development of the lead is thought provoking.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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