Sunday 4 January 2015

Review: American Sniper

World of Blackout Film Review

American Sniper Poster

American Sniper
Cert: 15 / 132 mins / Dir. Clint Eastwood / Trailer
WoB Rating: 5/7

Oh yeah, it's awards-season isn't it? The early months of each year when the studios proudly and loudly present their worthy, message-laden films, because judging panels have notoriously short memories (which is why all those end-of-year 'Best Of…' lists only consist of movies released from October onwards). Anyway, a lot must have happened between American Hustle and American Sniper, because Bradley Cooper's stopped playing cons, got all annoyed and joined the army…

Clint Eastwood helms the story of Christopher Kyle, "the most lethal sniper in U.S. history" (that's on the poster, remember), from his roots as a God-fearing Texas rodeo-rider to a fear-instilling Navy SEAL with a formidable track-record. And you might think that a film with a tagline as provocative as that might be more preoccupied with the achievement of the title than with the moral and psychological repercussions which also come bundled with the prize package. And you'd be right.

Bradley Cooper is on reliably solid form as Chris Kyle and gives a good thousand-yard-stare. Also trying her best (and frequently succeeding) is Sienna Miller as his States-bound wife, Taya. But the scenes between them are largely for nothing as Eastwood seems far more interested in directing the patriotism than he does the PTSD, and favours a short, minimalist approach to Kyle's more quiet, introspective moments; an approach which is noticeably flipped when it comes to scenes featuring people being shot in the face (the faces of combatants on both sides, to be fair).

For the most part American Sniper is certainly a compelling film, saved by its performances, but the final reel covering Kyle's counselling and rehabilitation is cut almost insultingly short (and certainly seems shorter than the 'explained-by-one-caption' real-life footage which plays behind the final credits). Never as mawkish or flag-waving as Lone Survivor, the film is nonetheless torn in the same way between wanting to assure audiences that revenge can be righteous, and just wanting to be a good old fashioned war film.

You'd better be on-side before you sit down to watch American Sniper, because the morals of war aren't up for debate. Eastwood is either going to confirm your beliefs or rub salt into the wounds of the 21st century…

Oh, and extra thanks go to the arthouse-frequenting couples on either side of me who seemed to think it's acceptable to have a conversation in an auditorium during a film (two separate conversations I mean, not one that ran across me). Even Friday night's multiplex, fidgeting, popcorn-rustlers were better behaved than that.

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Not unless you know it's your thing before you go in.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Unless you know it's your thing, this is a renter.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Cooper and Miller are on fairly good form, Eastwood's direction is all over the place as usual.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I think it probably does.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I didn't hear one, but the volume was turned to just short of white-noise level, so I wouldn't be surprised if there's one buried in there surreptitiously.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Bradley Cooper starred in 2010's The A-Team movie with Qui-Gon Jinn himself, Liam Neeson.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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