Friday, July 08, 2016

American Sniper

Based on the memoir by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and Jim DeFelice, American Sniper is the real-life story of Chris Kyle who would become the most revered marksman in history of U.S. military as he did four tours during the Iraq War. Directed by Clint Eastwood and screenplay by Jason Hall, the film is a study of a man who would become a hero to many as he struggles to find solace in his life outside of war as Kyle is played by Bradley Cooper. Also starring Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban, and Keir O’Donnell. American Sniper is a gripping and fascinating film from Clint Eastwood.

During the War of Iraq that began in 2003, Chris Kyle was known as being the deadliest sniper in the history of the American military with a reported 160 kills during four tours of the war. His skill as a marksman is considered legendary yet the film is about his life as a sniper and his struggle to find life outside of war as a husband and father of two children where he is haunted by the men he couldn’t save. Jason Hall’s screenplay showcases Kyle’s humble beginnings as a skilled marksman from being a skilled hunter as a kid while spending some of his early adult life as a ranch handler before joining the Navy SEALS in his late 20s. During that time, he meets and fall for a woman named Taya (Sienna Miller) who would later become his wife as she struggles with his absences and the idea of him being killed in the battlefield.

Hall’s script doesn’t just display the complexities of Kyle but also his flaws as someone who is very patriotic and believes he is doing a great service but not everyone shares his feelings of duty including some of his own soldiers. At the same time, he’s in denial over what he’s experienced in the battlefield as he would kill many people including his first being a mother and child who were trying to kill soldiers by throwing a grenade. He has to shake off what he’s experienced but some of it becomes intense as he’s afraid to talk about it. Especially after his final tour where he continuously finds himself going into a battle against another sniper known as Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) who is considered the best and was an Olympic medalist in being a marksman. Kyle would be forced to face his own reality but also find a way that would give him fulfillment in helping others and find that balance in being a soldier and a family man. While Hall’s script does take some dramatic liberties into what really happened as the Mustafa character is really a fictionalized version of an assassin. It still plays into some of the realities that Kyle did face in war and at home.

Clint Eastwood’s direction is stylish in not just the way he portrays war and what a man does to kill people from afar with a rifle. With scenes set in the U.S. shot in California and scenes in Iraq shot in Morocco, Eastwood goes for something that is really an exploration of a man trying to find himself in the need to do something with his life. Much of the direction has Eastwood using some wide and medium shots to play into the world that Kyle is in whether he is enduring the most brutal form of training to him being in the battlefield going after whoever he sees as a threat. The war scenes are intense as well as bloody while Eastwood doesn’t shy away from the fact that innocent people do get killed where Kyle is unable to save some because he is being targeted by this sniper. It’s one of these moments in the film that is very chilling along with these intense scenes of violence as the film opens with Kyle on the day of his first kill where he sees a mother and her son walking out of a building where they’re carrying a grenade as Kyle had to make a decision whether or not to kill them.

The direction also has Eastwood use close-ups to get a look into how Kyle would see things in battle as he is looking for a target to kill as well as some of the moments at home where it is intimate but also unsettling. Especially in a scene at an auto shop with his son as Kyle is hearing a drill as it gives him war flashbacks until he meets a soldier whose life he saved where he is back to reality. Some of the scenes at home are a bit flawed such as a moment where he is with his newborn daughter where it is obvious that a fake baby is used where it is sort of a distraction but it doesn’t deter what is happening as it shows Kyle’s disconnect from his family life. Much of the direction set in Texas are much simpler while having some rich images to play into Kyle trying to get adjusted to civilian life. Overall, Eastwood creates a compelling yet intense film about the life of a sniper and his encounter with war.

Cinematographer Tom Stern does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography to play into the sunny yet eerie look of the scenes in Iraq along with some desolate lighting for some of the scenes set at night. Editors Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach do excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward while utilizing rhythmic cuts to play into the action and war scenes without deviating too much into fast-cutting styles. Production designers Charisse Cardenas and James J. Murakami, with set decorator Gary Fettis and supervising art director Dean Wolcott, do fantastic work with the look of Kyle‘s home in Texas as well as the look of the places in Iraq including the homes of some of its citizens where the troops would stake out at. Costume designer Deborah Hopper does nice work with the costumes from the casual look of Kyle and his family in Texas to the look of the uniforms he wears when he‘s in the battlefield.

Special makeup effects artist Koji Ohmura does terrific work with the look of some of the wounds that some of Kyle‘s soldier friends would sport in the aftermath of war. Visual effects supervisors Phillip Feiner, Michael Owens, and Matt Seckman do amazing work with some of the visual effects as it includes the sandstorm sequence during the fourth tour as well as some of the moments in the battles that Kyle faces. Sound editors Bob Asman and Alan Robert Murray, along with sound designer Tom Ozanich, do superb work with the sound as it plays into the chaos of the violence and what happens in gunfights as well as how Kyle would remember certain sounds that would trigger terrible memories. The film’s music soundtrack is wonderful though it doesn’t feature a lot of music though Clint Eastwood does compose a soft orchestral piece as a theme for Taya as well as a few orchestral pieces from Joseph S. DeBeasi along with some country and rock pieces played in the background and a score piece by Ennio Morricone for the film’s closing credits.

The casting by Geoffrey Miclat is great as it features some notable small roles from Ben Reed and Elise Robertson as Kyle’s parents, Cole Konis as the young Kyle, Luke Sunshine as the younger version of Kyle’s brother Jeff, Marnette Patterson as Kyle’s then-girlfriend early in the film, Leonard Roberts as a drill instructor, Max Charles and Madeleine McGraw as Kyle’s children in their respective roles as Colton and McKenna, Mido Hamada as an associate to a renowned terrorist that is called the Butcher, Navid Negahban as an Iraqi who reluctantly helps the Americans, and Sammy Sheik as the assassin known as Mustafa who tries to go after Kyle and kill whoever he can. In the roles of some of Kyle’s fellow soldiers, there’s Kyle Gallner as his spotter Goat-Winston, Kevin Lacz as Dauber who helps Kyle in the last 2 tours, and Cory Hardrict as Kyle’s spotter in the last tours who would help him as well as get him home.

Keir O’Donnell is superb as Kyle’s younger brother Jeff who would also go into service as he would return home disillusioned about being a soldier. Jake McDorman and Luke Grimes are excellent in their respective roles as soldiers Biggles and Marc Lee with the former being the upbeat of the two as he would be wounded during the third tour with the latter being a superior of sorts for Kyle as he would become disillusioned with war and duty itself. Sienna Miller is amazing as Kyle’s wife Taya as the woman who would ground him but also call out on him being in denial as well as often worry what would happen to him whenever he calls her from afar. Finally, there’s Bradley Cooper in an incredible performance as Chris Kyle as he displays a sense of restraint and anguish into a man troubled by war while being calm and cool as he is fighting while knowing when to act out when things go wrong as it’s Cooper at his best.

American Sniper is a sensational film from Clint Eastwood that features a remarkable performance from Bradley Cooper. Featuring a great supporting cast that includes a fantastic performance from Sienna Miller as well as a compelling story about duty and a man’s struggle to serve his country. It’s a film that doesn’t have a political agenda while exploring a man trying to find himself as a soldier. In the end, American Sniper is a phenomenal film from Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood Films: (Play Misty for Me) - High Plains Drifter - (Breezy) - (The Eiger Sanction) - (The Outlaw Josey Wales) - (The Gauntlet) - (Bronco Billy) - (Firefox) - (Honkytonk Man) - Sudden Impact - Pale Rider - (Heartbreak Ridge) - (Bird) - (White Hunter Black Heart) - (The Rookie) - Unforgiven - (A Perfect World) - (The Bridges of Madison County) - (Absolute Power) - (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) - (True Crime) - (Space Cowboys) - (Blood Work) - (Mystic River) - Million Dollar Baby - Flags of Our Fathers - Letters from Iwo Jima - Changeling - (Gran Torino) - (Invictus) - (Hereafter) - (J. Edgar) - (Jersey Boys) - (Sully) - (The 15:17 to Paris) - (The Mule)

© thevoid99 2016


Anonymous said...

I couldn't bring myself to like this one.

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this. I was pretty salty about it when it first came out because I think Bradley Cooper took Jake Gyllenhaal's Oscar nomination. I tried to watch it a few times on HBO and just couldn't get into it myself. Great review!

Stephanie said...

I recently reposted my review of this film, which my son and I saw together in the theater -- I'm glad you liked it too. Bradley Cooper was terrific in this, wasn't he? Excellent review!

Dell said...

Have to disagree with you on this one. A big part of my issue with it is that I felt it didn't show any complexities or flaws to Kyle. It was just relentlessly telling us he's a hero for killing all these evil people. I never felt the film went any deeper. It did show some who disagreed with him, or at least had some doubt about things, but each one of them were shouted down first and were killed a short time later. After he came home, he was only depressed because he couldn't keep saving people, not because his experience was so traumatizing. From a visual standpoint, it was excellent. Those scenes set in Iraq looked amazing, so I'll give it that. Just can't get with the rest of it. And yeah, the fake baby scene is just hilariously bad.

thevoid99 said...

@assholes-I understand why some doesn't like it and I'm totally cool with that.

@Brittani-Thanks. I would've also preferred Jake Gyllenhaal to be nominated but I think Cooper did an excellent job.

@Stephanie-He is. He did show a lot about what decisions are made and some of it isn't easy.

@Wendell-The hero thing is up for debate though I understand where you're coming from although I too wouldn't call him a hero. Especially for the fact that he killed a kid and his mother. I would've given them a warning shot and then to drop the grenade and go home. Plus, I think he was in denial of being traumatized and I think you're right about that as well. The fake baby scene was kind of bad though I still enjoy the film but it's not in my top 25 of best films of 2014 so far...

keith71_98 said...

Strangely I have never seen all of the movie. I've started it twice but something came up both times which kept me from finishing. I will say that I did like what I saw.

thevoid99 said...

@keith71_98-I say get the chance to watch it as a whole and try and finish it. It is a flawed film but still one that is quite important.