American Sniper – a patriot’s obsession

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Film: “American Sniper”; Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Nefahban and Keir O’Donnell; Director: Clint Eastwood; Rating: ***1/2

Based on the biography of one of America’s best snipers, Chris Kyle, which is co-written along with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice, Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” is an engaging war drama that is raw and emotional and is one of his best films as a director.

The film is more than a tribute to Chris. It is a character study of a man who travels to and from war, while his wife, Taya and kids await his arrival.

The film encapsulates the complex internal as well as external turmoil of Chris, starting from his childhood right through his marriage and short career span that lasted only four trips to the strife-torn zone in Iraq.

From the opening sequence itself, which you witness in the trailers, you are sucked into a moral dilemma: Should Chris shoot the mother and child? Are they a threat or is there just a misunderstanding? The sniper’s decision and the justification for his action lay the foundation of the narration.

But what makes the tale interesting is; despite Chris’ predicament, what is it that makes him restlessly gravitate to the war zone? Is it his penchant for shooting or his moral responsibility to be the guardian angel of the ground troops? This is the crux of the film.

The film at a certain stage seems like an American propaganda. It glorifies and justifies their mission in Iraq. It also stirs a strong patriotic fervor and Eastwood’s direction does nothing to underplay this.

Screenplay writer Jason Hall’s script is crisp. The narration lingers during mid-point but races towards the last quarter, offering some outstandingly disturbing suspense sequences which work well for the narration. It does nothing beyond creating a certain shock value. Even that is tempered in time, with the sniper angle that consists of some good suspense sequences, with Kyle shooting down enemies.

The beefed up Bradley Cooper delivers an incredible performance. He displays the grit, grime and pain of the war and his personal inner conflict with equally measured ease. His final outburst over the phone, telling his wife he has made the decision to come home for good, moves the audience beyond words.

Sienna Miller as Chris’ wife Taya, is a one-dimensional character. She is torn between concerns about her family’s well-being and her husband’s obsession to go to war. She is convincing and her angst is palpable.

The striking cinematography with steady camera work and well-angled shots are pleasing visually and are of a good quality. The visuals along with the well-synchronised sound design, keeps you hooked.

Overall, “American Sniper” is a well-crafted film with a strong American patriotic twinge.

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