AMERICAN SNIPER (director: Clint Eastwood; screenwriters: Jason Hall/based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice; cinematographer: Tom Stern; editors: Joel Cox/Gary D. Roach; music:  ; cast: Bradley Cooper (Chris Kyle), Sienna Miller (Taya Kyle), Luke Grimes (Marc Lee), Jake McDorman (Biggles), Kevin Lacz (Dauber), Cory Hardrict (“D”/Dandridge), Navid Negahban (Sheikh Al-Obodi), Keir O’Donnell (Jeff Kyle), Mido Hamada (The Butcher), Sammy Sheik (Mustafa, Syrian sniper); Runtime: 134; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Clint Eastwood/Robert Lorenz/Andrew Lazar/Peter Morgan/Bradley Cooper; Warner Brothers Pictures; 2014)

"Bradley Cooper, who bulked up forty pounds for the film, gives a stunning natural performance."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 84-year-old Clint Eastwood ("Jersey Boys"/"J. Edgar"/"Hereafter") passionately and skilfully directs this different type of war drama for a different type of war, that looks so real as it puts the viewer in the middle of the action. It tells the tense and moving story of the humble but gung-ho Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), recognized as the Navy SEAL who became a legend as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. He had a confirmed 160 kills in his four tours of duty in Iraq. The film is based on the 2012 memoir by Chris Kyle, as told to Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. It's deftly scripted by Jason Hall. Bradley Cooper, who bulked up forty pounds for the film, gives a stunning natural performance, that keeps his character real while it tugs at the viewer's heart. Eastwood pushes all the right buttons when veering between the war zone and the so-called 'sheepdog' fighter of evil's  visits back home in the States with his anguished wife and two youngsters.

God-fearing, good ol' boy, Texas-raised cowboy Chris Kyle joins the SEALs and marries his dream girl Taya (Sienna Miller), whom he picks up in a San Diego bar.

In Iraq's Fallujah, Chris earns his sniper rep on the rooftops with his pinpoint accuracy by protecting the marines fighting on the ground in a door-to-door search for insurgents. Meanwhile the religious Chris constantly wrestles with his conscience, as it's not easy to shoot children or women enlisted by the terrorists to fight in the war.

As the genuine hero goes through four tours of duty in different parts of Iraq, including one in Sadr City, it shows his pained emotions when home on leave and unable to adjust to civilian life with his supportive family.

When showing the sniper in action the film comes even more to life than in the routine domestic setting. It shows the uniqueness of this war, where the battlefield is on the city streets. The urban street shots were mostly filmed in Rabat, Morocco. Curiously it also shows Chris while in the middle of action is on the cellphone with his concerned stateside wife.

Chris accepts his part in the unpopular war as necessary, and willingly does so because he believes he's been blessed to have a gift that can help beat the bad guys and thereby mounts the inner strength needed to fight through the dangers faced in combat, the American public's indifference to the war, his battle-scarred psyche, his high blood-pressure and the emotional toll it has on his personal life. Chris is emblematic of the SEAL dedication to doing the mission and caring about their own, while portrayed as a jokey regular guy and not some kind of saint. Eastwood wisely keeps his story straight-forward (shunning away from ideology or any justification of the bad war, by just telling it through Chris's eyes). He ably tells the short-lived legend's story with the dignity it deserves. Chris died at age 38, in 2013. While out of the service, after a ten year stint, the ever protective Chris tries to help a marine friend shoot at a target range, but he and his friend are ironically killed by a mentally disturbed marine intruder apparently suffering from a post-war trauma stress syndrome.

REVIEWED ON 1/17/2015       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"