It is during the opening sequence of American Sniper where we discover the true intensity of the movie. Marine Chris Kyle is positioned at the top of an abandoned building in Iraq, his rifle is positioned and we are looking through the telescopic sight first at an Iraqi soldier and then the attention is drawn to the ground where a mother and her son emerge from a building, the son clutches something to his chest under his jacket as his mother whispers instructions. The boy then sets off running towards Kyle’s fellow American troops and Kyle’s finger is poised on the trigger…
The beauty of Clint Eastwood’s direction is the level of intensity he can produce from a moment such as that, but the true story of Chris Kyle is depicted brilliantly not just through the direction, but through the story and the acting. Eastwood has taken the focus of the story and balanced it between the war in Iraq and a normal life for a soldier returning home, which is anything but. The main part of the movie is in Kyle’s difficulty to separate his home life from the life he risks everyday fighting in the war. His decision to join the marines came to him through his father predominantly. His father would teach him and his brother to stand up to bullies and be strong and this is what exactly, as young men, they chose do. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 this form of ‘bullying’ spurred Kyle on to want to fight and it was soon evident his skills lay in using a rifle.
Chris Kyle had four tours of Iraq and the movie follows each one of them and also the life he shared at home with his wife and children. Like most soldiers returning from active duty, the adjustment to a life at home is difficult with everyday noises drawing dark memories to his life in conflict. In Iraq, Kyle is witness to the brutality of the enemy and an unknown assailant, also useful with a rifle, is his main target. The price on his head from the Iraqi’s is substantial, but the bounty refuses to deter Kyle in his mission to capture Osama Bin Laden’s number two and bring an end to the war.
Bradley Cooper portrays the role of Chris Kyle in a performance that has seen him nominated for an Oscar and understandably so too. Although Cooper performs superbly, I don’t think this is his strongest performance to date. Certainly not in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook in which he was also nominated. Sienna Miller is almost unrecognisable as Kyle’s wife, Taya, in a strong role in which the depiction of her struggles with her life married to a marine is executed superbly with the emotional distress that any woman in her position would go through. It is one of the best roles I have seen her in.
My admiration goes fully to Clint Eastwood. A master in his field both in front of and behind the camera he shows no signs of letting up, even at 84 years of age. The pace and passion of the story is sublime and Eastwood doesn’t hold back for some of the more uncomfortable scenes of life that is happening every single day as our soldiers fight. The drama and intensity are with us throughout the whole movie and supported by a wonderful cast you can see how this has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I personally am not sure it has the strength to go on and win, but it is still an exhilarating experience not to be passed up.