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 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.