(Clint Eastwood, 2014)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: With 'American Sniper', Bradley Cooper proves he is one of this generation's finest performers. Don't take potshots at the film's one-sided look on the war's enemies; the film's sole target is the fragility of man.
As producer and star of 'American Sniper', Bradley Cooper has secured his third and fourth consecutive Oscar nomination following his nods for his performances in 'Silver Linings Playbook' as a bipolar man blindsided by love and 'American Hustle' as an increasingly erratic cop driven towards the biggest sting of his career.
Those prior films have a jet black streak of humour giving them a certain airiness but 'American Sniper', and Cooper's work as the lead actor in it, is weightily dramatic and almost brutal.
It's the story of the American military's deadliest ever sniper but Clint Eastwood's film is no propaganda-driven shoot-em-up in the sand as some lazy critics have derided it as; it's a reflective examination at how a man is forced to adjust following severe trauma. The enemy is within.
Cooper's performance here says so much in so few words - the anger, the passion, the confusion, the fear, the humility, the wounded love are conveyed by an actor who never misses a beat. Sienna Miller is solid as his wife and mother of his children. We feel that dynamic between them. Cooper has the most to do and while Miller may seem overshadowed and relegated to the 'crying spouse' role, her work is essential and flawless.
As a director, this is Eastwood's most thrilling and energetic work in recent memory - this doesn't bear the mark of a man who could've retired decades ago. Eastwood isn't one to flash the budget - he's an actor's and writer's director. This could well be his answer to 'The Deer Hunter'.