May 15, 2024

AMERICAN SNIPER (4K): Super Cooper

2014 / 132 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer

Bradley Cooper is gonna win an Oscar someday. After all, the guy’s been nominated 12 times in the past 10 years, five for his acting. Regardless of one’s personal assessment of his talents, the Academy loves people like this…movie stars who are successful on both sides of the camera. Barring some kind of social media meltdown, he can’t possibly remain a bridesmaid forever.

After finally watching American Sniper for this 4K review, I think perhaps Mr. Cooper might have been robbed back in 2014 (when he was nominated for this role). More than any movie I’ve seen him in, this is where I felt he truly disappeared into the character. He is more convincing as legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle than Eddie Redmayne was as Stephen Hawking.

It’s a performance that never feels like a performance, and Cooper is easily the main reason American Sniper remains a memorable film, which garnered some controversy (perhaps a little retroactive condemnation) over its accuracy and supposed oversimplification of the circumstances surrounding the Iraq War. I dunno...I had the impression that a simple guy in his position would see the war in black & white terms (if just to maintain his sanity). As such, Kyle is a fascinating character. 

Not just an expert marksman, Chris is also a Feng Shui legend.
Elsewhere, this may be director Clint Eastwood’s most successful film, but it doesn’t rank among his best. Sympathetic portrayal of its protagonist notwithstanding, American Sniper is narratively inconsistent and doesn’t adequately develop any other characters. The sequences depicting Kyle’s four tours in Iraq are tension-filled, punctuated by well-edited bursts of action and violence that put the viewer right there with Kyle and his buddies (though the special effects are occasionally lazy). Additionally, it’s during these scenes when Kyle appears the most morally conflicted by his role in the war, exemplified in a nerve-wracking moment where he targets an Iraqi boy with a rocket launcher aimed at an American armored truck.

Conversely, the stateside scenes featuring the psychological toll the war has taken on Kyle and his family are comparatively less involving, partially because his PTSD isn’t really explored in much depth, but also because none of the other characters, including Kyle’s wife Tara (Sienna Miller), are very engaging. I often had the impression these scenes were included more out of a sense of obligation than enthusiasm.

Still, American Sniper is worth watching for Cooper’s performance and the action scenes (and perhaps the now-notorious prop baby). The film has been given an outstanding 4K upgrade, with sharp color tones and a suitably earth-rattling Dolby Atmos audio track. The disc also includes a substantial amount of vintage bonus features, along with a couple of superfluous new ones.


FEATURETTES - One Soldier’s Story: The Journey of American Sniper and The Making of American Sniper offer pretty detailed looks at preparation and production, each running about 30 minutes and featuring lots of interviews; Chris Kyle: The Man Behind the Legend is a bio on Kyle himself, narrated by Bradley Cooper; Clint Eastwood: A Cinematic Legacy - The Heart of a Hero is a “newish” feature focusing on the director’s films (but mostly this one); Navy SEALs: In War and Peace is also narrated by Cooper; Bringing the War Home: The Cost of Heroism focuses on compact-related PTSD; Guardian is a superfluous five-minute extra that offers nothing the others supplement don’t.



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