American Sniper – 7.5/10.

He might shout at empty chairs once in a while but Clint Eastwood knows how to tell a story…


First off, the elephant in the room. Any film about the war in Iraq is always going to be controversial. A film celebrating the life of a sniper in the U.S army who described Iraqi insurgents as ‘savages’ and also told of how he ‘loved’ killing them, takes this controversy to a new level. American Sniper is not a propaganda film or a recruitment video however. It is at its essence entertainment and should be treated as such.

With that out of the way is American Sniper actually any good? I am happy to say that it is mostly successful. Bradley Cooper continues his incredible trajectory with another confident and touching performance. To receive Oscar noms in three consecutive films as diverse as Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper is quite the achievement for Cooper and all the work that he put in to become protagonist Chris Ryan pays off in spades.

AMERICAN SNIPER - 2014 FILM STILL - Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle - Photo Credit: Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros  (c) 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., WV Films IV LLC and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC-U.S., Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda

American Sniper does dip a little in the middle with a long Zero Dark Thirty style shoot out. I always think the most boring parts of any war film is the actual fighting itself which is one of the reasons I enjoyed Jarhead so much. Even in these moments Bradley Cooper injects a personal touch into what should be disconnecting fighting scenes.

Cooper smoulders with an intensity that bubbles under even in the quieter scenes and his co star Sienna Miller overcomes any doubts that anyone could have had about her ability to pull off a role as emotive as Chris Ryan’s wife Taya. Eastwood has a history of getting the most out of his cast and everyone in support seems to have bought into what is an astounding story no matter what your political alliances are.

Is Chris Ryan a hero? It depends who you ask. Does it matter? Not in the context of this film. A stunning return to form for Eastwood and more of the same from Cooper.

American Hustle – 8/10

Two con artists are caught by the FBI and coerced into helping forge an investigation into scams involving politicians, the mob and some awful haircuts.


Occasionally a film will come along where the acting is so strong the story doesn’t really matter. The Big Lebowski is one such film or the ultimate example would be Glengarry Glen Ross. American Hustle is almost there as well.

The main four players Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and especially Jennifer Lawrence smoulder and spit against each other brilliantly. There are so many layers to the relationship between characters and the chemistry between them that it keeps your head spinning throughout. A wonderfully eclectic supporting cast of Jeremy Renner, Louis CK, an ever menacing Robert De Niro, and Shea Whigham among others make every scene pop off the screen with each cast member at the top of their game.

The story is what lets American Hustle down though, it starts off intricate and interesting but it definitely runs out of steam by the end, with the ending feeling a bit rushed and deflating. There are better films in this years Oscar pool but if someone from American Hustle doesn’t take home a statue for acting they have been robbed. They should make up an award for best hairpiece just for Christian Bale. It really is a sight to behold.

American Hustle is not as good as director David O. Russell’s last two films (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) but it is still a very good piece of work.

The Place Beyond The Pines – 8.5/10.

Ryan Gosling and Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance reunite for gripping, multi-layered drama The Place Beyond The Pines.


It is difficult to write a synopsis for TPBTP without giving too much of the unique storytelling technique away so I’ll keep it brief. A stunt motorbike rider (Gosling) finds out he has a son and starts robbing banks as a means to support his family. This has grave ramifications spanning many years for everyone involved.
A story of things coming full circle and how one bad decision can wreck your life, it is compelling stuff. Great cast (Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Bradley Cooper), well acted, very well directed. Cianfrance lets the story breathe without trying to rush to the conclusion and a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes definitely feels necessary. Totally different to Blue Valentine but just as vital.

Silver Linings Playbook – 10/10.

Pat Solitano leaves a mental institution and attempts to integrate himself back into normal society.


Bradley Cooper plays the protagonist  and he smashes it out of the fucking park. In any other year he whould be nailed on for a best actor Oscar, Daniel Day-Lewis will win it of course.
Jennifer Lawrence cements her reputation as the best actress working in Hollywood right now with her crushingly beautiful performance as the damaged Tiffany. In support Robert De Niro gives his best performance in years and has some of the funniest lines.
Silver Linings Playbook has many laugh out loud moments but is also heartbreaking and up lifting, touching on mental health, alienation, longing, love, family, how sport and dance can bring people together and people’s attitude to mental illness (particularly the authorities). As someone who worked in mental health for a while I felt that the issues faced by Bradley Cooper and his reaction to them were portrayed perfectly. No film has touched me on so many levels as Silver Linings Playbook has for years. It also has the most iconic dance sequence since Pulp Fiction and a great soundtrack.
Director David O. Russell has come a long way since Three Kings and it is going to be nigh on impossible for him to follow the huge success of The Fighter and now this. If you only watch one the films nominated for Best Picture at this years Oscars make it this one.