In Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, Bradley Cooper plays real Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, who did four tours of duty in Iraq before leaving military service, physically whole but emotionally ruined. Kyle’s rise to glory as a sniper is of legend; he’s hale and hearty, tall, brave and handsome. He’s a patriot who learned love of country at his daddy’s dinner table and to aim and shoot while hunting deer with his old man in the woods of Texas. He’s the manliest of manly men. When Kyle is stateside with family, however, he is absent, even when present. His fall into despondency is not pathetic; it’s tragic because the reason for his sacrifice, those unseen injuries, and that of his SEAL buddies is unclear, the battle seemingly unwinnable.
Playing opposite Cooper, who is terrific, is Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife, Taya, a distressed dynamo who watches helplessly while her husband retreats into the hell of PTSD. She fell for a rodeo cowboy, married a fighter, but lost him to a military campaign that Eastwood, who has filmed some of the most compelling war stories in recent memory, has long viewed as senseless. Taya recognizes she has only part of her husband’s heart, the rest belongs to SEAL team but that doesn’t make watching him pack for another tour easy, just inevitable.
In many ways, the themes in American Sniper are familiar. Eastwood’s presentation is as efficient as most of his other films — the narrative is crystal clear, the performances are top drawer, and void of politics, perhaps to make room for the human heart. Highly Recommended but bloody. Not for children.