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Friday, August 28, 2015

AMERICAN SNIPER (2014)

Clint Eastwood’s recent output has felt rushed into production before it's camera-ready. Understandable for a guy in his 80s, if not so good for the films. But this Iraqi war pic is impeccably made, well cast/acted & deftly constructed for clarity & economy. What’s more surprising is the controversial reception for such a conventional piece of work. A fact-inspired portrait of Navy SEAL sniper extraordinaire Chris Kyle, well played by a bulked-up Bradley Cooper, it charts the widening gulf between his sporadic homelife (wife, two kids) and four tours of increasingly disorienting/soul-numbing Middle-East duty. As seen here, Kyle’s tunnel-vision allows him to concentrate on the work at hand, taking down active targets regardless of who the ‘package-carrier’ is. Any global implications/repercussions would only get in the way of Kyle’s phenomenal success as a one-man death squad. Respected, but oddly alone and not particularly liked at home or at war, Kyle is likely something of a self-portrait for the workaholic Eastwood, a man with his own multiple relationship fiascos. (And just as weirdly political naive.) The film cheats with a counter-sniper nemesis, adding a specious note of false drama , but many of the action scenes would have pleased Eastwood’s mentor Don Siegel. (Though not a climactic battle that adds too much literal fog-of-war to the mix.) By the time we leave Iraq for good, Eastwood has to rush thru an unsatisfying three-stage last act that may have been dictated by family concerns. (Something’s missing in here.) But it’s undoubtedly his best film in a long time.

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