If you watch American Sniper and see a message of propaganda, most likely you were going into it looking for message of propaganda. However, the same could be said for a lot of films revolving around the theme of war.
What you should see is a stellar performance by Bradley Cooper, who plays Chris Kyle perfectly. Kyle was a U.S. Navy SEAL and supposedly the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. He was also the author of the bestselling autobiography that the film was based on. Cooper earned his third consecutive Oscar nomination by nailing Kyle's speech, mannerisms and appearance. (He packed on 50 pounds for the role.) And even though that performance is definitely the highlight of the film, the actual story is both brutal and completely riveting, from beginning to end.
American Sniper opens on the intense war scene from the film's trailer. From there, it doesn't really let up all that much. Kyle's limited time on Earth is perfect movie fodder because it was nothing short of amazing.
Of course, you get a quick glimpse of Kyle's upbringing and even his stint as a rodeo cowboy. However, the film is really about what happens in the late 1990s and on. Inspired by the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, Kyle signs up for SEAL training, which he takes like a champ. That seems to be a running theme in his military career, which spanned four tours in the Middle East and at least 160 confirmed kills.
The one thing Kyle can't seem to master is his home life, which includes his wife (an almost unrecognizable Sienna Miller) and two children. After all, duty calls.
American Sniper created a lot of buzz, both good and bad. There were people claiming that Kyle's autobiography wasn't entirely true and others stating that it was all propaganda. As David Kempler points out in his theatrical review, this is about the movie -- which I thought was fantastic. Yeah, there's the whole fake baby thing. Still, that's not really enough to knock this movie down a point. American Sniper shows the good, the bad and the ugly parts of war and Kyle's life. It's entertaining, interesting, heartbreaking and is filled with great performances and action. How anyone can watch American Sniper and see propaganda is beyond me. All I saw was an excellent movie.
Although some of the subject matter will have you shielding your eyes, American Sniper features the type of image that will keep you glued from beginning to end. The colors are spot-on and the detail is stellar, from the bubbles on top of the mud puddles and dirty faces during SEAL training to the facial hair and wrinkles to the speckes of dirt and fire during explosions. The black levels are excellent throughout and even the sandstorm at the end delivers all of the chaos and detail you'd expect from such a scene.
Still trying to decide whether to invest in Dolby Atmos? If studios keep releasing films like this with the audio format, it may not seem like such a daunting task. While I didn't have Atmos equipment for this review, it definitely left me wanting to make that leap. The default TrueHD 7.1 mix handled all of the dialogue really well, even amidst the movie's more chaotic moments. Of course, the action and the atmospheric sounds stand out the most here. The sounds of the rolling tanks, the wind, punches, sprays of water (both from a hose and the ocean), gunshots and grenades are all immersive. This is a demo-quality track for sure.
I have yet to be disappointed by a Clint Eastwood film (in fairness, I haven't seen all of them), and American Sniper is no exception. If I am going to nitpick about the Blu-ray, I would say that the amount of extras are a bit of a disappointment. However, American Sniper is a powerful film that will keep your stomach in knots and your eyes glued to the screen. A lot of that has to do with Bradley Cooper's stellar performance, as well as the excellent AV.
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