In the introduction of his first book of “The Great Movies” series, Roger Ebert mentions that certain directors become like friends, and you see what their movies have in common. While I have not seen all of Clint Eastwood’s films, I have seen enough to know that they are really about how, as humans, we are sometimes forced to make hard decisions (for more proof, see “Unforgiven”, “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby”, and “Gran Torino”.
His newest film, “American Sniper”, is not as masterful as some of those movies, but it still is pretty darn good. One of the reasons for that is the wonderful Bradley Cooper, now on his third consecutive Oscar nomination (after “Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”). Here he gives another equally brilliant performance as Texas born Eric Kyle. He is (as the movies tagline says) “the deadliest sniper in U.S. History”. He enlists in the SEALS, and (after scenes of training that I felt went a little long), meets Taya (Sienna Miller). Both actors have great chemistry together.
Once the 9/11 attacks occur, he and his friends are sent to Iraq. What happens in Iraq and who makes it and who doesn’t I will not spoil here. I will say that the atmosphere is captured perfectly (for any teenagers reading this, it is like playing a “Call of Duty” game with ten times more realism). Eric’s hardest challenge is not always making sure he hits the target, but if he should shoot in the first place.
There is also an enemy sniper that we see at points through the movie, and even a brief glimpse of his background. Of course, Eastwood is too smart a director to show more than we need to: He trusts how smart the audience is.
Parents, I would think this movie is ok for a High Schooler. Yes, there is violence (come on, it is a war movie), much swearing, and one scene of a sexual nature (we see Taya in underwear for a brief bit). Still, the movie is no more violent than the video games that are even rated T for teen.
The movie reminded me a lot of “The Hurt Locker”, although it is not as good a movie (there are scenes I felt that were thrown in there that were not needed, or seemed unoriginal). Still, they are both great in showing the dangers of war not just on the battle field, but back at home. Like the tagline from the film “Platoon”, the first casuality of war is, indeed, innocence.
Overall: Four Stars ****