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Movie Review: American Sniper
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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American Sniper Movie Review

American Sniper
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenwriter: Jason Dean Hall
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner
Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated R | 134 Minutes
Release Date: January 16, 2015

Directed by Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar, Jersey Boys), American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper as U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. Written by Jason Dean Hall, the film is based upon Kyle’s bestselling 2009 autobiography of the same name.

After 9/11, Kyle is deployed to Iraq with one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His deadly accuracy saves countless American lives and – as stories of his exploits spread through the ranks – he earns the nickname, “Legend.” His reputation grows behind enemy lines, too. A bounty is put on his head, making him a prime target of insurgents.

Despite the danger, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq, becoming emblematic of the SEAL creed to “leave no man behind.” Upon returning home, however, the Navy SEAL discovers that he can’t escape the war that’s still raging inside his head.

A decade ago, Eastwood landed three Best Picture nominations in four years with Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004), and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). Starting in 2008, however, Eastwood’s directorial career took a dive. Efforts like Changeling, Gran Torino, Invictus, Hereafter, J. Edgar, and Jersey Boys ran the gamut from decent to mediocre at best.

So, when I say American Sniper is the best film the 84-year-old director has made in over a decade, you know that isn’t exactly high praise. It’s a competent, well-made film with a gripping performance from Cooper at its center, but American Sniper is too jingoistic and melodramatic to be taken seriously.

Eastwood’s mucho-masculinity provides for enormously tense, visceral action sequences, but when it comes to exploring Kyle’s relationship with his wife (Sienna Miller) and children, he uses a machete when he should be using a scalpel. Miller’s character is the stereotypical supportive wife, whose sole purpose is to make Kyle a better man. She’s defined only by her emotional (and sexual) relationship with a Navy SEAL and has little else to offer other than being someone to come home to.

I know, I know – this is a movie about a real man’s man, adapted from an autobiography written by that same man’s man, directed by the man’s man. And yet, if only a little attention were paid to the film’s sole female character, I may have actually cared about Kyle’s family and the toll his military career was taking on them.

American Sniper is an intense but shallow film that captures the gut-wrenching realities of war, but little else. I’m not even entirely sure what this movie is about or wants to say, I only wish it would have actually chronicled Kyle’s life.

His personal struggle with PTSD and the way he helped other veterans deserves to be the focus of the film, not how many Iraqis he killed. By focusing on just the killing, Eastwood does a disservice to the most important work Kyle did – helping his brothers in arms pick up the pieces from the wars that tore them apart.

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