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American Sniper - obsessing over war

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I'm really sorry to say it but American Sniper feels like a weepy loud (mainly bullets-loud) hymn for a lost cause. It sings the same old song about war, martyrs, deaths and the schizophrenic life of soldiers. Don't get me wrong, it will always be a touchy subject and a righteous theme for cinema, I guess, but you need a little extra to make it count as a movie and not only as a touching story that was already touchy as it was. So overall, I felt like rolling my eyes every time the director tried to make it more human (than it already was). I can't help wondering what it would've looked like if David O. Russell - who was first meant to direct - had been in charged of it.

However, I always credited Clint Eastwood for his interesting film making skills, in the sense that he usually manages to create highly cinematic characters. He also did it for American Sniper but Bradley Cooper has a good part of the credit for it. Seeing him in, basically, a different body, felt hypnotic in a way. He gained a lot of weight and muscular mass for the part, that's for sure, and from American Hustle to American Sniper he's been through a lot of changes. He does look like what we figure a Navy SEAL sniper should look like. He also feels like one and his fierce dedication to his country and the fight he is part of feels accurate, just like in real life. Compared to the picture of the real Chris Kyle, we'd say Eastwood and Cooper did a good job turning the real legend into a movie character. His heavy walk, big powerful hands, wide strong shoulders and blue gaze are powerful physical features that turn into psychological ones as the story unwinds.

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Another aspect I admired was the color of the movie. It felt and looked like a war in the desert. The beige costumes, the dusty air, the white buildings caused faces to all merge together in two big collective characters: the Americans and the Iraqis. In a way, it's this de-personalization is the most important effect of the war. The desert storm that takes hold of the situation at some point might be the best sequence in the movie and it works great as a metaphor.

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In terms of story, you will meet Chris Kyle as a little child who was trained to shoot the rifle by his severe father. Then he becomes a passionate rodeo rider. Eventually he finds purpose in his life when he sees the 1998 US embassy bombings on TV and he decides to enlist the US Navy. You'll watch the hard trainings meant to turn those who enrolled into iron-strong war machines. Eventually Chris meets and marries Taya (a very hard to recognize, brunette Sienna Miller) and but the 9/11 attacks take place and he is sent to Iraq. What follows is a schizophrenic back and forth between the war areas, where Chris is forced to even shoot children as they are trying to place bombs, and his home where Taya gives birth to a boy and soon after, a little girl. Chris is ripped between his two universes but what he always longs for is not quiet family time, but rather solving the impossible situation back in Irak. He is introduced to us as a different kind of fighter - one that has no dreams about going home and leading a quiet life as all the other soldiers do. He seems determined to win the war but unfortunately his legendary list of more than 250 kills is not barely enough for that. However he turns a bit schizo when he has the impression that every small aggressive act is bigger and more violent than it actually is and he trips on his mission to save everybody. So, without knowing if this is in Chris Kyle's autobiography or if it happened to him in real life, it's a nice aspect American Sniper aims to cover. However, the bits of family life feel thrown in the pie to prove a point. In a way it works, in the sense that we can't wait for the family time to end so he can go back in the war zone where things are more exciting, but in terms of character development and all that jazz, it fails to deliver.

To conclude with, American Sniper left me with a weird touch of paranoia and I give it that - it managed to send chills down my spine, reminding me that wars are an impossible fight to lead and that the amount of deaths and the choice of who gets to live and who dies is completely random and nobody has any control over it. The weird part is that there exist people like Chris Kyle who get hypnotized by the war and thus it becomes their fate, no matter what choices they make. I'm glad it didn't win an Academy Award, though.

Tags:   review, Academy Awards, trailer, American Sniper, Clint Eastwood, Sienna Miller, Bradley Cooper, film review, Oscars 2015, Irak, SEAL, US Navy

Related:   American Sniper


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