Thursday, 29 January 2015

ON THE FRONT LINES: American Sniper rivetingly explores war's toll on diplomatic ties and family life

A MAN APART: Cooper, as Chris Kyle, the subject of Eastwood's masterful war epic.

"It's the greatest country on Earth, and I would die to protect it," declares American Navy Seal Chris Kyle, a skilful marksman who goes to fight in Iraq in the wake of 9/11 and eventually earns the title of the most deadly sniper in US history. 

Kyle's incredible true story gets a deft cinematic rendering in American Sniper, revered filmmaker Clint Eastwood's bombastic new drama that's just been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and a well-deserved Best Actor nod for Bradley Cooper as the hero of the title. 

In short, American Sniper paints a gripping, visceral picture of war's devastating impact on lives both on and off the battlefield. Morphing into a man who kills for a living, in patriotic service of his country and being so adept at it racks Kyle's conscience, but especially when kids and other innocents end up in his line of fire. Sometimes, in reflecting on his actions, his noble Texas upbringing and his wife and kid back home (Sienna Miller plays his supportive wife, Taya), Kyle sobs inconsolably. And it's in these quiet moments that we get to see the vulnerable, flesh-and-blood human being behind the trigger. 

It's an utterly convincing performance from Cooper, who is fast building an impressive body of work and whose astonishing good looks can't be concealed by all that facial scruff his character has to sport in the movie. A versatile actor who can go from starring in popcorn comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover trilogy to earning raves for compelling dramas like Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle while barely drawing breath, Cooper is, without doubt, becoming the Dustin Hoffman of his generation. 

As for Eastwood, what's left to say? The man is a genius at the height of his creative powers (well into his 70s, at that!) who continues to school his younger colleagues, while mesmerizing critics and viewers alike. Drawing parallels with such Eastwood classics as Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, American Sniper is an intensely captivating meditation on conflict, conscience, family and unbridled patriotism. Tyrone's Verdict: B+ 

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