Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna
Director: Clint Eastwood
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.4:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 132 Minutes
Release Date: May 19, 2015
“Your dad...he's a HERO.”
The story of Chris Kyle is a tale of heroism, conviction, and a reminder of the very real conflict in the world between good and evil...and it's a story with an ending so bizarrely tragic, it almost defies belief.
I read Chris Kyle's book when it first came out, and I loved it. It was a tale of incredible feats that seemed impossible, but told from a humble point of view. Chris was a Navy SEAL and the deadliest sniper in American military history, but from his perspective, he was no hero, just a patriot who did what he did for the sake of God, country and family.
And yet this amazing warrior, who survived four full tours in Iraq, came home to try and do an even greater good, which was to help his fellow returning military comrades find normalcy again in the real world...and the terrible irony is that it was THERE, not the battlefield, where Chris would meet his end.
I never thought about the book being translated into a motion picture, but I remember being surprised and rather happy when I learned that Bradley Cooper had personally optioned the movie rights, and intended not only to bring Kyle's story to the screen in a faithful way, but to portray Kyle himself. The happiness turned to elation when I learned Clint Eastwood would be directing...arguably the best choice for the material apart from Kathryn Bigelow.
And the movie is indeed faithful to the book...how Kyle became a SEAL at the unlikely age of 30, and then after 9/11, beginning one of the most extraordinary military careers in modern memory. This is balanced accurately against his home life, where he married his true love Taya (Miller) and became a father, but where he could never find solace...every time he came home from a tour, he couldn't help feeling he was letting his brothers in Iraq down.
Kyle became the ultimate protector of American lives in battle, watching from rooftops and making sure no one could ambush the troops in their search for bin Laden's top men. And the film doesn't flinch from showing what our military was up against...one particular bad guy had no qualms about torturing children in front of their families.
Kyle ended up with a good 160 confirmed kills, and his only regret was not the lives he had to take, but the ones he couldn't save. It was only after finally leaving the military that he found he could continue to save lives even away from the war zone.
This is an amazing film...even though I recognized piece after piece from the book, I still got lost in the drama and suspense of each moment, excellently directed by Eastwood. But perhaps even bigger kudos goes to producer and star Bradley Cooper. With this film, Cooper received his third consecutive Best Actor Oscar nomination, and as far as I'm concerned, he's cemented himself as one of the truly great actors of the millennium. He absolutely disappears into the role of Kyle, portraying him honestly and with respect and dignity.
It's sad that Kyle's story has become a political hotbed, as Kyle himself wasn't particularly political, only patriotic. It's shameful that his amazing life and achievements have turned into fodder for those who would disgrace his memory by calling him a murderer, or become a chance for a lucrative payout by a contemptible quasi-celebrity who actually successfully sued his widow in her time of grieving.
Yet the solace is that Kyle never did what he did for gain or to win the admiration of academic, media or celebrity cultures. He did what he did because he believed it was the right thing to do. That is the lingering spirit of Chris Kyle, and it's one that American Sniper perfectly reflects.
This high definition transfer is superb...clean, clear, and rich in vivid details, from the simple suburban landscapes to the full-out terror of battle. One sequence in particular deserves note; a sandstorm. The effect it has on the visuals is stunning and real, and yet despite the obvious effects on vision, creates amazing and unforgettable imagery.
This audio track is absolutely stunning...the best I've heard so far this year. Not only is it well-mixed and dynamic, but it ranges from all-out assault to the most suspenseful of silences. Battle sequences are so real that I was looking left and right, really thinking that danger was coming from the corners of my room. Absolute perfection.
There are two featurettes on the making of the movie.
American Sniper was one of last year's best films, and a perfect, honest, and unflinching portrait of a true American hero. This exceptional Blu-ray from Warner is a must-own.