Movie Review: Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” Screening at AFI FEST Presented By Audi

 

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The invitation to a secret screening at the Egyptian proved irresistible, especially after it was announced that Clint Eastwood‘s newest film, American Sniper, was the movie to given a special AFI Fest presented by Audi viewing to the public. It was an added bonus to have the AFI‘s President and CEO Bob Gazzal introduce the legendary Clint Eastwood to the house. Greeted by the mighty sound of applause Clint Eastwood took to the podium in a relaxed and unceremonious way to tell all who were in attendance about his new movie American Sniper. For the most part Clint Eastwood held the podium confidently, but for a couple of split seconds you could glimpse his trepidation of speaking about the film to this large group of people. It brought this artist’s humanity to the fores in an unexpected way and made the moment more meaningful, adding greater depth to the experience of such an unexpected and extraordinary public appearance of Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood exited in the same manner he entered as the applause rose and fell as the much-anticipated feature started to glimmer on the Egyptian Theatre’s silver screen.

Clint EastwoodAmerican Sniper introduces Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, as the most successful marksman in American history. The opening scene showing Kyle on duty in Iraq strategically and secretly resting on a Bagdad rooftop preparing to make a kill on 2 terrorists. The real discomfort for these kills comes from these targets, for Kyle and the audience, because these terrorist target are a mother and son, who are preparing to toss a bomb in front of a tank and military scouting party. This on-screen introduction of Kyle’s marksmanship focusing the kind of skill required of a marksman and the discipline it takes to make a split second decision in life and death situations. At this critical moment Eastwood introduces Kyle’s back story in a series of flashbacks sequences. These sequences of his childhood, family and young adulthood are presented to the viewer before Kyle’s the critical shots are to be made. This sequences acquaints us with Kyle’s ethics and values handed down by his father and family traditions long before his military career. Moving the story forward Kyle is shown as a young man involved in the Rodeo circuit. The Rodeo life is a desperate young man’s game that offers few perks and even less stability. Eventually, Kyle is made sympathetic by a betrayal by his then girlfriend’s betrayal. This initiates the sequence that leads him to becoming and Navy Seal. These essential scenes of him training and bonding with military mates. This all leads to him finding the woman he eventually marries, Taya played by Sienna Miller.

After these introductions and fleshing out Kyle’s character the story wraps back to the original storyline of him in Bagdad as a concealed sharp shooter with his fateful decision laid out before him. Form this point on the is told in a more linear fashion. It’s made clear that Kyle is a man possessed by a sense of justice and duty. This thread in the story is the nexus to understanding how Kyle is defined as a human being and how he negotiates through all of his relationships, including his relationship with Taya and his children, for the remainder of the movie. Clint Eastwood’s understanding the subject matter and previous experience on similar themes lends the necessary honesty and gravitas to telling Kyle’s story. Clint’s direction of the subject matter makes for a fine pairing, painting a realistic and detailed account of Kyle’s passion and dedication, as a Navy Seal, as a man defending American values isn’t over rot with overly dramatized patriotism, nor is it overly critical of Kyle’s sense of duty to his country. This theme may not resonate strongly for folks on either coast, but those in the heart land of the United States will find that this rings true and be strongly embraced. I have to commend Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle and the way he inhabited this role. As charming as Bradley Cooper has been in other features like The HangoverSilver Lining Playbook and American Hustle I, more or less, thought of that Bradley Cooper was playing Bradley Cooper. This round Bradley Cooper really digs in a deep and in a way I’ve never seen him do before and his work is breath-taking to watch. I really believe that Bradley Cooper is Chris Kyle in all his Texan glory! As the story advances Bradley Cooper’s Kyle matures and becomes a more complex and engrossing character. Kyle is exposed to more war horrors and tragedies than any single human being should ever have to experience. Kyle eventually endures 4 tours of duty in Iraq. Not only is Kyle a great sharp shooter but he take the initiative to save his fellow soldiers lives. He truly lives a hero’s ethos! Kyle embodies all that we believe is best in American values and his men respond to his leadership. The military excursion are realistic and battles have a riveting vitality that puts in all the action. Taking this into consideration his and Taya’s marriage is in a state of disarray and near the breaking point in an emotional battle that’s nearly bigger than their marriage survival. This makes Kyle American hero status a little tarnished and more thoughtfully represented in the movie. The theme adds the right amount of tension to pull you in deeper to the plot and empowers stronger character development by not candy coating the story of the hero. Eastwood effectively blends action and humanity in telling Kyle’s life’s story in this earnest accounting, both good and bad, of the most successful marksman in US history with a 255 confirmed kills.

The movie moves to its close returning Kyle to domestic life and the focus on Kyle’s attempts at decompression and family life after many  years harden battle activity. After a few attempts at rebooting his life he finally finds inner peace helping veterans with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. From the point it appears that everything is going to turn out fine. But as anyone who knows Chris Kyle life story he dies in an unexpected and tragic manner serving the needs of his fellow military brethren with PTSD. The conclusion of American Sniper is appropriately sensitive of Kyle’s fate. American Sniper properly offers homage this unique man who found himself in a unique place in history and many will praise Chris Kyle as a hero. It’s a powerful story told in a significant way for those who desire an honest unvarnished portrayal of a keenly interesting point in history of a man who sacrificed most of his life for the things, the people and the country he held most dear. Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is an appropriate and beautiful tribute to a contemporary American hero.

Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer, photographer and wardrobe stylist with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with an keen interest in art, fashion, photography and writing. He shoots celebrity events and red carpets for PR Photos, Photoshot and The Photo Access/Corbis. His images have been published in Vanity Fair, People Magazine and The Los Angeles Times. He's very engaged in life. You can follow him on his Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/billybennightartist
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