Cooper fires but Eastwood misses the mark
Known for his fascination for character studies, this time around, Clint Eastwood gets into the psyche of the late Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL, proclaimed as the 'most lethal sniper in U.S. military history'. Based on Chris' best-selling memoir, this biopic follows the legend's war service in Iraq and how it took a toll on his personal life.
Unnerving and tense, the trailer of this film opens to a remarkable scene, where an American sniper (Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle) is shown aiming at a suspicious woman and child in war-torn Iraq. The anxiety about whether he pulls the trigger brings a lump to your throat. It left us pumped up about the film and though it indeed comes close to meeting our expectations, somewhere, Eastwood's biopic falls short of hitting the bull's-eye, unlike its protagonist.
Speaking of the titular role, as a man torn between his sense of duty to his country and his obligation to his family, an enormously buffed up Bradley Cooper is a revelation. His physical transformation, coupled with the subtle intensity he exudes in times of hypnotic silences, is note-worthy. This is clearly one of his finest performances.
Without an ounce of melodrama, the filmmaker too executes suspenseful war scenes with equal aplomb. However, despite it all, the effort seems a tad tepid in front of The Hurt Locker (2008), which was an extensive, in-depth testament of 'life in a war zone', with due focus on the bigger picture.
While we don't mind Eastwood's unhurried storytelling of this one-dimensional tale with a narrative that suits jingoistic thinking, it's the monotony and stagnancy that fail to make the desired impact. Chris' one-upmanship with Mustafa (a Syrian sniper) is an interesting track that stays unexplored.
Also his conversation with wife (Sienna Miller), who begs him to quit his dangerous job, is cliched. 'You don't know when to quit,' she says. Barring this line, and a few more, the dialogues don't contribute much to stirring up deep emotions.
American Sniper is hard-hitting, no doubt, and predominantly a performance-oriented film, where Cooper shines. It isn't the Clint Eastwood classic you expect it to be, though.