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Movie Night – 'American Sniper' brings real hero story to powerful movie (Jan. 28, 2015 issue)

Most movies are meant solely as entertainment, a brief respite from the stresses of life. You may have a few laughs, maybe you even learn a thing or two, but the movie is forgotten the moment you leave the theater. Every once in a great while a movie comes along that stands for more than entertainment, a movie that affects you on a deeper, more emotional level. A movie that you can’t get out of your mind, that stays with you forever. “American Sniper” is one of those movies.
“American Sniper” tells the story of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a sniper for the Navy SEALs. With 160 kills confirmed by the Pentagon, Kyle is the most lethal sniper in the history of the United States military. The best part about his story is that it’s true.
Kyle, a self-professed cowboy from Texas, joined the military after a short career as a rodeo rider and ranch hand. He wanted to serve his country, a country that he described as the greatest country on the face of the Earth. He chose to join the SEAL teams, the best of the best military operators. During his SEAL training Kyle met Taya (Sienna Miller), who would later become his wife and the mother to his two children.
After 9/11 Kyle is part of the military force sent to Iraq. His main job was overwatch, provide sniper support for marines as they went building to building clearing out what were supposed to be evacuated cities in a decimated Iraq. In all, Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq, each more physically and mentally demanding than the last. The movie also chronicles the life of the Kyle family, how Taya and Chris cope while he is in Iraq and how their life and relationship is affected when he returns home.
“American Sniper” is a powerful movie. It’s hard to contain your emotions as you watch the ups and downs experienced by the entire Kyle family. The soldiers who fought in Iraq (and on any other battlefield) have seen things no one should have to see, have done things no one should have to do. But Kyle and the countless number of other soldiers and their families sacrificed much of their lives and happiness over the centuries to protect this country. As the director, Clint Eastwood brings to life the honor, loyalty, sacrifice, and bravery that it takes to be a soldier. At 84, Eastwood proves he’s still got it.
Bradley Cooper is absolutely phenomenal as Chris Kyle. Cooper completely transformed himself, both physically and mentally, into Chris Kyle. I didn’t feel like I was watching Bradley Cooper play a character in a movie. I felt like I was watching Chris Kyle on the screen. Maybe that’s because Chris Kyle was not a fictional character, but a flesh and blood walking, talking hero. Whatever the reason, Cooper’s portrayal of Chris Kyle is easily the best acting performance of the year and likely the best performance of the last decade. He is that good.
The movie chronicles the life and experiences of Chris Kyle as a soldier, but the overall theme of the movie covers more than one man or one family. The true heart of “American Sniper” is about the toll war takes on all soldiers and their families who are supposed to carry on as normal while their spouse, parent, or child is facing imminent death each day. Kyle’s struggle both between his tours of duty and after he returned for good are emblematic of the difficulties suffered by many veterans. Taya said it well in the movie when she said that even when Chris was home he wasn’t really home, in his mind he was still in Iraq.
The story and life of Chris Kyle deserves respect, not because he’s famous or because he’s the most lethal sniper in U.S. History. The story deserves respect because he and his family, and millions of other soldiers who have served this great country, sacrificed so that we can live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. “American Sniper” is one of the best war movies ever and is the first great movie of the year. It’s the story of a true American hero, a movie every American should watch.
Grade: A+
Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references.