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American Sniper

29 Jan

American Sniper – directed by Clint Eastwood. WarDrama. 133 minutes Color 2014.

★★★★

~

The Story: A natural marksman becomes a sniper with the most kills in American military history, and his family suffers by it.

Of course, Clint Eastwood is the most experienced maker of war films alive, and this would be, as such, his masterpiece.

The movie is far from a masterpiece. for the domestic drama is badly written and directed, and the poor actress whose unappetizing job it is to slog through the part of the wife does not have the character or variety of craft to relieve it of its monotony, shallowness, and borrowed tone. All the character does is whine and plead. But that’s the way it’s written. It is as though this woman, who has lots of moxie when we first meet her in a bar, has no inner resources of her own, but exists only as a dependent clause of her husband.

Eastwood has a habit he shares with Spielberg of, after a champagne banquet, for dessert serving Cheerios. It’s too bad, because, by this, the actual ruin war has on males is given short shrift. Oh, tut-tut, he almost throttles a dog that is playing roughly with his son! Not enough, Clint!

Perhaps the problem was that it was based on Chris Kyle’s autobiography. It might have been better told like Hawk’s Sargent York, as fictionalized as could be. But it’s not.

The result of this is that Kyle does not emerge through Bradley Cooper’s acting. Oh, the character is there, the actor has done his work well, but the scenes are not there. Klye is essentially a feminine, receptive individual; that’s why he such a subtle, long-suffering marksman. It’s also why he just stands there and recites his indoctrination about protecting America. Don’t be fooled by his bulk, he is most tractable of men, which is why he would one day make a good teacher of the intractable, and why his escape from his forced submissiveness is to lay in wait and kill.

For why he goes back to kill in four deployments has nothing to do with his stated reasons: patriotism, care for his corps. It has to do with what we ourselves feel as he lies there on rooftops waiting to slay. The sheer inner lift of it. The exaltation the concentration gives us. And the desire to see bodies splat and fall. The satisfaction of seen slaughter. It’s a resource available to almost none, but in all its forms it serves well as an antidote to abuse, a bypass for resentment, a getting-back against tyrannical fathers.

The war scenes are the best you’ve ever seen. The movie is well worth experiencing because of them. They are not to be missed. The film benefits from Eastwood’s usual broad, relaxed narrative canvas. But how anyone ever escaped alive from such belligerence is incomprehensible. The stations on the front, with their unindividualized male personnel have the presence and power of a personality in and of itself, the character of a whole human society. A light shines in on how men are. Which is essentially gentle with one another. And never more so than when in crisis.

 
 
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