In American Sniper, director Clint Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper pay tribute to modern day warrior Chris Kylie — a man torn between his duty to his country, and the sacrifice of love of his family to serve and protect his fellow Americans.
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend”. However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. Chris also faces a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq. But upon returning to his wife, Taya Renae Kyle (Sienna Miller) and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
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From the opening frame of American Sniper, Eastwood and Cooper set the stakes high, showcasing just how much of Kyle’s life comes down to a choice between life and death, and whether he will make the right decision. Using a very clear structure permeated by Kyle’s four tours of Iraq, Eastwood tells the story of a man who dreamed of being a warrior, and serving his country. For Kyle, this starts with his boyhood in Texas, before we flash to his rough and tumble cowboy days as a rodeo playboy, and his decision to join the SEALs and undertake the grueling harshness of training. When he’s finally deployed to Iraq, Chris quickly proves his skill as a protector.
While the film’s battle campaigns are epic, the strength of American Sniper comes from the way Eastwood handles the relationship between Kyle and his wife Taya, played by a very compelling Sienna Miller. While Kyle’s love and devotion to his wife and family is absolute, his duty to his country and fellow soldiers begins to trump this, and the tension between these two responsibilities is played out in full. We feel the absence of his home life, and the tension it creates is just as enthralling as his battle tours.
While Eastwood may be directing the story of American Sniper, it’s star Bradley Cooper who truly brings the incredible character of Chris Kyle to life in the best performance of his career. Cooper’s work is nothing short of transformative, having completely turned himself into this hulking Navy warrior, complete with spot on Texas twang. From his battlefield demeanor as a silent warrior to his relationship that he shares with his wife, Cooper is simply superb. The most powerful scenes come when Chris is forced to weigh up the battlefield decisions he’s has made, and the lives he saved over the ones he couldn’t. It’s a difficult state of mind to access for any actor, but Cooper manages it beautifully.
Image source: Roadshow Films.