Sunday, May 17, 2015

Video review: "American Sniper"

When I wrote my initial review of “American Sniper,” the movie wouldn’t hit theaters for another month. I opined that it might not do well commercially given its subject matter, the Iraq war, and its portrait of a man who kills prodigiously for a living.

A half-billion dollars and a half-dozen Oscar nominations later, I’m glad to pronounce myself totally off the mark. One of the best movies of 2015, “American Sniper” is the deeply affecting story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL credited with 160 combat kills.

Bradley Cooper, known for playing smooth operators, is barely recognizable as Kyle. An unapologetic patriot, Kyle uses his sniper skills to take out threats to his comrades on the ground. Sometimes this involves dreadful choices, such as whether to shoot a boy holding a grenade running toward American soldiers.

It’s perhaps the best performance of Cooper’s career, totally submerging himself into the part of an unremarkable guy who discovered that he was the perfect instrument of war. Needless to say, this wreaks havoc on his private life back home with his wife (Sienna Miller) and kids. In between four tours in Iraq, Kyle struggles to fit in amid a staid world of lawnmowers and kids’ birthday parties, sensing threats on the wind.

The actual combat scenes are the real heart of the film. Rather than taking us into the midst of chaos, director Clint Eastwood shows the eagle’s-eye view of the sniper, perching on rooftops to get the best vantage point for their kills. The editing, camera work and sound effects are all top-notch.

It can be a tough movie to watch, but “American Sniper” is well worth your time.

Bonus features are a bit on the modest side, and are the same for DVD and Blu-ray editions. Both come with two making-of documentaries: “Making of American Sniper” and “One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper.”




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