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American Sniper (Film Review)

Over Clint Eastwood’s career as a director, the journey has been very inconsistent. He may either make a really, really good movie or a really, really dragging one. From ‘Million Dollar Baby’ to well… ‘J. Edgar’, the director has this signature style of bringing raw emotions onscreen, exerting the most out of his actors (e.g. Tim Robbins, Hilary Swank). In ‘American Sniper’, his second feature of 2014—coming after the underrated ‘Jersey Boys’—though the emotions were there, it didn’t reach the right spot when it comes to fully embracing the outcomes of its character.

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who is named as “the most lethal sniper in U.S. history”. His comrades call him a legend for having the most kills on the team, shooting over 150 casualties in their Iraq tour of duty. But the real terror isn’t with the war itself, but what’s gonna happen after it. Kyle must deal with post-traumatic stress disorder for the issues and trauma he got from the war.
For a movie that’s nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the Oscars, ‘American Sniper’ didn’t feel great at all. Yes, it was a fitting celebratory film for Chris Kyle himself, his work, and his family. But it didn’t really leave enough impact on me to actually call it a “Best Picture Nominee at the Oscars”. Now, was it a good film? Yes.

The one thing that I have to give praise for is how they actually treat Chris Kyle on the war. They didn’t “Hollywood-ize” him when he’s carrying his sniper—the filmmakers could actually portray him as a Rambo-like figure, where he could shoot anyone without coming home with a scratch. But, and thankfully here, his display in the battlefield was simply a human being with a gun—forcefully shooting lives of everyone who is threating his fellow soldiers. Bradley Cooper played him very well; I mean this guy proved once more he is one of the best actors working today. He brought the right amount of emotion, courage, and seriousness in his performance which suited this character very well, and may I say Cooper transfixed in this role so much that he became unrecognizable at all.

There were intense moments here and there. I could count them on one hand, but these scenes are the one that will leave with you after seeing it. One scene, already hinted at the teaser trailer, shows an Iraqi mother giving a grenade to his child to throw to civilians. Not only it will make you bite your nails, it was perfectly executed by Director Clint Eastwood.
I really want the filmmakers to explore Chris Kyle and his post-traumatic stress more throughout the movie. They really go there, but not until the final 10-15 minutes of the movie. And the result is, you don’t seem to be emotionally embraced fully on this aspect after watching it—because there’s so many potential there that could improve this film a lot. 

Either way, ‘American Sniper’ was still a good movie; the first two acts seemed emotionally discharged, but the terrific performance by Bradley Cooper made this a satisfying tribute for Chris Kyle.

The geek rates it 7/10.

'American Sniper' opens Jan. 21 in IMAX and 2D cinemas,  and is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
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