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American Sniper (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 132 minutes.

Not for children.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S. military. One really good thing about this movie is that it explains exactly what a sniper does and how important the position is to a fighting force.

Cooper gives an award quality performance as Kyle. Itís not just the acting, the physical resemblance is startling. But that was a lot of hard work. I was stunned to see how bulky Cooper was in the film because thatís not the way Iíve seen him in other movies. Kyle weighed 230 pounds and it took Cooper three months of constant eating and working out to go from 185 pounds to a weight where he would look more like Kyle. His transformation is remarkable.

If this is not the best war movie ever made, itís right up there. Director Clint Eastwood and Cooper show what the war in Iraq is really like with uber-realistic battle sequences. Itís like youíre there in the battle.

But this isnít just a war movie. Sienna Miller, in a moving and effective performance, not only plays his wife, Taya, but she, with her dark hair, is a remarkable look-alike with the real Taya. Eastwood spends a good amount of time showing the effect that Kyleís war efforts had on his loving marriage.

Based on Kyleís book (co-written with Scott McEwan and Jim DeFelice) the plan for the film was broached to Kyle by executive producer Jason Hall before the book was written. Apparently Kyle approved of the casting of Cooper, but, although they spoke on the phone, Kyle was murdered before they could actually meet.

As to Eastwood, heís 84 years old. I donít know where he gets the energy to direct a movie like this. Both actors praise him to the skies. Cooper says, ďI absolutely loved Clintís fast-paced style, his efficient use of time. He opened up the filmmaking process to me and allowed me to collaborate on a level that was very beneficial to me and to my performance.Ē

Miller says, ďWorking with Clint was the most creatively liberating experience Iíve ever had. He is so trusting, so instinctual and so confident in his ability to know when he has what he needs; it just forces this freedom in you as an actor.Ē

Essential to the production and realism was Kevin Lacz, who was part of Kyleís SEAL team 3 and fought with him throughout his deployment. Lacz added anecdotes about Kyle and what he would do and guided the production in the specific ways the team operated. Cooper said that the things Lacz told them, ďdictated how we filmed certain scenes. I canít even imagine having done the movie without him.Ē At Cooperís suggestion, Lacz was added to the cast and plays himself in the film.

All of this shows through in the finished product. I donít think Iíve ever seen a war film with more verisimilitude. In a less political Hollywood, this would sweep the Oscarsģ.