By Gary Murray

Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Luke Grimes

Written by Jason Hall

Based on the book by Chris Kyle

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Running time 132 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE


Chris Kyle was one of the most decorated men of the Middle East War, a sniper with dozens of kills to his credit.  But, he was not some kind of killing machine.  He was a man who believed in God, country and family.  This true story of a patriot is the latest from director Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Letter from Iwo Jima, Million Dollar Baby) and it is one of the strongest films of the year.

The film starts In Medius Rea, with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) on top of a building.  He is watching for the enemy and sees a mother and her young son come out of a building.  The mother hands the boy something.  Chris is not exactly sure what the object is at first.  He has his sights set but if knows he’s wrong with his shot; killing innocents will have him court-martialed.  Chris eventually recognizes it as a grenade and takes out both targets.  He has killed his first two enemies.

Then we go back to the beginning and see a much younger Chris hunting with his father and taking down his first deer.  Then we see Chris with his brother trying to be rodeo stars.  The attack on an American embassy changes the young man and he decides to join the Navy SEAL program.  There are all the training scenes that are pretty standard with these types of films.

Chris meets Taya (Sienna Miller) in a local bar.  Very soon they are a couple and married.  Then 9/11 happens and America is at war.  This is where the film goes from a standard war flick and into something more interesting. 

This is the first internet war, a conflict that is not edited by the Department of War or by the media.  This is an instantaneous war where civilians know what is happening before Washington.  In one scene, Chris calls his wife on his cell phone to find the sex of the baby and a firefight breaks out.  She can hear her husband in harm’s way, bullets flying and mortars exploding.  Taya falls to the ground with worry, not knowing if she has heard the death of her young husband.

We see Chris Kyle go through four tours of the Middle East and his struggle to adjust to being stateside.  Taya knows that there is something wrong with her husband but the stoic warrior will not admit to the emotional scars of taking down women and children in the name of freedom.  Toward the end, there is a breaking point where Kyle confronts a target who is way too close to his stateside family situation.  .  

Clint Eastwood is a very old-fashioned film maker and this is a very old-fashioned film.  He doesn’t try and gives us swooping camera work and artsy images.  He lets the characters and plot unfold naturally, not mechanically.  The choice of basic film-making gives the film a classic feel, like films about WWII made in the 1950s.

Bradley Cooper has a great chance of getting an Oscar nod with his performance of Chris Kyle but little chance of winning.  This is the kind of role that the people love but not the critic or the Academy.  If Bradley were more of an anti-hero, he would have a better chance to get that statue.

The better performance is by Sienna Miller.  She is the put upon wife who loves her man but knows Chris is not the same man he married.  Her journey is the journey of America, blissfully ignorant about the horrors of combat.  As much a she tries to understand about her man, the more she fails.

The acting category will be flooded with so many outstanding performances and Bradley Cooper just doesn’t have the track record of some of the older thespians who should be nominated.  (The Oscar is Michael Keaton’s to win this year) But, it should put him on the short track of winning the prize in years to come.

American Sniper is one of my favorite films of the year.  It has best performances by Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.  The film looks true much like The Hurt Locker but the story is much more in the vein of Americana. 

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