REVIEW: American Sniper

16 01 2015

Towards the beginning of “American Sniper,” Bradley Cooper’s cowboy turned Navy SEAL Chris Kyle receives the instruction to make pulling a trigger an unconscious effort.  Director Clint Eastwood and writer Jason Hall, however, ensure that the audience watching Kyle’s exploits are very conscious of the rationale and logic behind the dispatch of every bullet.  No kill feels sensationalized to satisfy bloodlust, even when that sentiment disguises itself as patriotism.

The film simply portrays one man’s experience during four tours in the post-9/11 Middle East, opting not for any anti-military statement (like “Green Zone“) nor for a chest-thumping jingoism (like “The Kingdom”).  Since Kyle is the protagonist and the eyes through which the viewer watches the film, of course “American Sniper” tilts in his favor.  But he is not celebrated merely because of his record 160 kills; the film lionizes Kyle because of the value he placed on leadership and loyalty.

At this stage in the cinema’s grappling with what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, just telling stories from over there seems important.  And that basically sums up the extent of what “American Sniper” is: a presentation of Chris Kyle’s narrative.  Eastwood and Hall never fully commit to either showing the full terror of combating terrorism (a la “Lone Survivor“) or the grueling mental experience of the soldiers (in the vein of “The Hurt Locker“).  They pull elements from each effectively, yet they never really advance a thesis or a broader takeaway.

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What To Look Forward To: January 2015

4 01 2015

Inherent ViceI haven’t used this category of post in almost three years, so I figure it’s due for a good dusting off.  Here, I’ll give you a sense of what I’ll be up to this month at “Marshall and the Movies” and what might be cooking at a theater near you.

F.I.L.M. of the Week

You might have already noticed (that’s doubtful), but I have chosen to move my long-running “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column from Friday to Thursday.  The decision was manifold.  First, I wanted to take advantage of #tbt opportunities on Facebook.  Second, I needed the space on Friday to run reviews of new releases, which are often embargoed until opening day.  I look forward to bringing the same underseen or underrated titles to your attention on a new day!

Paul Thomas Anderson

I hinted last month that I would post a recap of the “On Cinema” that I heard PTA give, but I wound up focusing all my efforts on finishing all my 2014 reviews.  That and a ranked filmography will be coming next week to celebrate the release of “Inherent Vice.”

Tina and AmyGolden Globes Live Blog

One last hurrah for Tina and Amy!  I’ll be typing my thoughts the whole time.

Sundance Spotlight

The year always gets an injection of fresh energy from the outset thanks to Sundance, the American festival committed to highlighting new voices in the world of independent film.  To run parallel with the 2015 festival, I will be publishing a daily review of a film that came out of Sundance – both the good and the bad.

A Most Violent Year

Finally, I can share my thoughts – January 30, unless A24 changes their minds.

In theaters

I am SO stoked for “American Sniper” on January 16.  Holy cow.

In terms of actual January releases, though, the film that most intrigues me is “Girlhood.”

It’s going to be a good month (I hope!) – what are YOU looking forward to?