An eye sights down the length of a long barrel, finding, framing, locking onto a target. In Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” Bradley Cooper bulks into the role of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, avowedly the most accurate and determined of American military snipers. More than a bravura hero, he was a bestselling memoirist of high braggadocio, as well as a murder victim of a veteran he hoped to help, who allegedly killed him on a shooting range after his return from four tours of duty in Iraq. A complex figure, but one simplified (refined? Made less complex?) through the screenplay by Jason Hall, a project set aside by Steven Spielberg and adopted by Eastwood. Select, obtain the target, capture with deadly force: an exaggeration of what a visually direct, understated filmmaker like Eastwood does with his subjects. Sharp physical filmmaking; a superb performance by a stewing Cooper; morally ambiguous storytelling. With a keen Sienna Miller as Taya, Kyle’s wife back home. 132m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride)
“American Sniper” is now playing.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.