MOVIE REVIEW: Pulsating, compelling and record-breaking!

American Sniper ANL-150120-141723001
American Sniper ANL-150120-141723001
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FILM REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER (15) SHOWCASE CINEMAS PETERBOROUGH, OUT NOW

CAST: BRADLEY COOPER, SIENNA MILLER, JAKE McDORMAN, CORY HARDRICT, KYLE GALLNER, LUKE GRIMES, KEVIN LACZ, KEIR O’DONNELL & SAMMY SHEIK

RUNNING TIME: 2 HRS 12 MINS

DIRECTOR: CLINT EASTWOOD

Wow . . . what a start to 2015! There’s not been a year in recent memory that has started with such a bang – with a plethora of four and five star films leaving movie-goers spoilt for choice.

These very pages have been awash with great reviews since the turn of the year and Clint Eastwood’s gripping record-breaking drama – which blew away the US box office record for January by taking $110m over the four-day Martin Luther King weekend – is another one off this currently high-quality Hollywood conveyor belt.

In fact it’s Eastwood’s best film since the likes of Gran Torino and Letters from Iwo Jima, and to put it into context the Oscar-nominated Sniper has already taken more than the Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby did in its entire run.

It was initially shocking to see Jake Gyllenhaal miss out on an Oscar-nomination for Nightcrawler, but if Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) pipped him to that accolade, his performance as Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle has softened the blow.

Eastwood’s assured direction helps deliver a vividly tense, edge-of-your-seat, spectacle, that provides a fitting tribute to its real-life central character – based on his ‘true story’ book – superbly portrayed by the burgeoning talent that is Cooper.

During four tours of duty in Iraq after 9/11, Kyle won numerous awards by saving countless lives of his army colleagues via his pinpoint accuracy – with 160 confirmed kills, but is estimated to be more than 250 – and eventually becomes a highly-prized target for insurgents as his courageous exploits earn him the nickname of ‘Legend’.

But undertaking so many stressful life-or-death decisions – including whether to take out ‘suicide bomber’ children endangering the lives of troops – eventually takes its toll on his home life when he returns to wife Taya (Sienna Miller in probably a career-best performance), and their two children, after months away on combat.

This is where the real battle begins for the truly-patriotic Kyle, when his tortured soul struggles to leave the harrowing death of comrades and the atrocities of war behind.

And for the most part, Eastwood and Cooper deliver a truly compelling drama that is only let-down by the odd over-egging of American sentimentality and an abrupt ending that slices out potentially interesting elements of his rehabilitation – but this is being nit-picky to what is overall an unexpectedly pulsating war experience.

If you’re wondering what movie to see next – this is another one to put in your cross-hairs.

By Gavin Miller – Rating: 4/5