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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » February 27, 2015
Film review
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American Sniper
February 27, 2015   
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American Sniper, the latest movie directed by Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Letters From Iwo Jima, Unforgiven), is based on the biography of Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in U.S. military history, who notched up over 160 kills during his four tours of Iraq. Convincingly played by Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, Serena, The Hangover movies), Kyle is a simple Texan and a former rodeo cowboy who decides to become a Navy SEAL when, after 9/11, he has a patriotic moment. Despite the fact that he’s no whippersnapper—he’s hit 30 after all—he breezes through the arduous training and heads off to Iraq. Coming home after several tours, he finds himself unable to get the war out of his head. His wife Taya (an equally strong performance by Sienna Miller—Stardust, Foxcatcher, Casanova) tells him: “I need you to be human again,” but her words bounce off a mental barrier that shields Kyle from normal life like a bulletproof vest.

Most of the 130-minute movie is packed with combat action scenes that feel like a cross between Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down and Enemy at the Gates by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Scenes of U.S. troops fighting in the streets of Falujah, Ramadi and Sadr City look like a carbon copy of the battle in Mogadishu that Scott depicted in his war drama. Meanwhile Kyle’s duel with a Syrian sniper named Mustafa, a former Olympic champion marksman (in real life, no Syrian has ever won an Olympic medal in a shooting discipline, by the way), bears an uncanny resemblance to the Stalingrad showdown between Soviet sharpshooter Vassili Zaitsev and German sniper ace Major Koenig in Enemy at the Gates.

Derivative as it might be, American Sniper has nevertheless nabbed six Academy Awards nominations, including for best motion picture, best writing and best performance by an actor in a leading role.

Praised by critics, the movie has also proved a huge hit with audiences, raking in over $90 million at the U.S. box office within a month of release and thus becoming the biggest January box-office success in American history. By mid-February the movie, which cost $59 million to make, had earned over $287 million. It is also the most commercially successful movie to be directed by Eastwood who, at 85, clearly still has what it takes to pull in the punters.

Still, American Sniper has been blasted by anti-war campaigners. In a graphic comparison, some of the movie’s fiercest critics have pointed to similarities between how it portrays the U.S. super-sniper and the way in which Nazi propaganda mastermind Joseph Goebbels portrayed a young Nazi sharpshooter in a propaganda film that was parodied by Quentin Tarantino in his Inglorious Basterds. While this analogy goes too far, American Sniper does at times feel like a propaganda flick made to cheer American hearts. The fluttering U.S. flag appears in far too many scenes and the main character speaks of patriotism and defending his home country almost nonstop. The new Eastwood movie also suffers from clichéd tearjerker scenes with newborn children, crippled war veterans, crying families and the like. In the corniest scene, Kyle and his brothers in arms are stranded on a roof in the ruins of Sadr City, surrounded and outnumbered. Suddenly, Kyle produces a satellite phone out his pocket and calls his wife. In a voice laden with emotion, he tells her he is now emotionally ready to return home.

As with any other biographical movie, you know what is going to happen to Kyle and so you can’t expect any surprise plot twists. But as American Sniper is about to end, you may find yourself asking if a shooting range really is the most suitable place to provide therapy for army veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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