At The Movies: American Sniper

“American Sniper” opens in St. Louis on Friday. It received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture the day before. So I guess I don’t really need to say anything.

But then, the academy did snub “The LEGO Movie,” so what do they know?

Well, they’re not off the mark here. “American Sniper” is one of the best films I’ve seen of 2014 — even if I saw it in 2015.

american_sniper_ver2_xlgBradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, a Texas cowboy who gives up rodeo life to join the military. While undergoing Navy SEAL training, Kyle meets Taya Renae (Sienna Miller) — his future wife — in a bar. Shortly after their marriage the terrorist attack of 9/11 occurs and Kyle is shipped off for his first tour of duty in Iraq.

Kyle turns out to be a gifted marksman and is assigned sniper duty. His skills earn him the nickname “The Legend” and by the time he has finished his four tours of duty, Kyle will be known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history (His record is reportedly¬†160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills).

Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film is based on Kyle’s autobiography. Eastwood takes us from Kyle’s childhood hunting deer with his father, a brief stop at his rodeo days, then on to his SEAL training and the back-and-forth between his tours overseas and his increasingly strained relationship with his wife.

The tension in the battlefield scenes is palpable but no less dramatic is Kyle’s struggles when he comes home. Despite his love for his family, Kyle can’t find peace in the peaceful suburbs.

At the center of it all is Bradley Cooper’s rock-solid performance as the title character. He dominates the screen as he struggles with war and family and being called a hero and how hard it is sometimes to pull that trigger. It’s a performance worthy of an Academy Award nomination and, oh, hey, he got one.

“American Sniper” doesn’t make any new or profound statements about war but it is a compelling character piece.

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