Clint Eastwood’s ‘American Sniper’ hits the bullseye

By Christian DiMartino

The Oscar nominations were released last Thursday, and I had originally planned on giving my reactions to them (I had quite a bit to say). But, something came up. Over the weekend, I saw Clint Eastwood’s latest film American Sniper, and as I exited the theatre, I knew I had to write about it.

Why? You may ask. Well, allow me to explain. American Sniper is a film that needs to be discussed, simple as that. It is now nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Bradley Cooper (which some are angry about), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing and Mixing. To be perfectly honest, it deserves more.

The film tells the true story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), a Texan who is simply frustrated with the cruelty of the world, and decides to do something about it. So, he joins Navy SEALs, and ends up becoming the most successful sniper in U.S. history (this is not a spoiler by the way. It is revealed in the trailer). The film also revolves around his home life. Let’s just say, he does not cope well. Sienna Miller is excellent as his wife Taya, who is sort of frightened by the way he is acting.

Eastwood, at 84, is one of the best filmmakers we have (the man has four Oscars for a reason), but I will admit that he has not done anything special since the underrated 2010 masterpiece Hereafter. So it brings me great pleasure to say that American Sniper is easily his best film in years, and is one of his best films, period.

Here, he is simply trying to tell us that war is hell on earth, and he sells it beautifully. The action sequences are expertly shot and intense. I am kind of irritated that he did not receive a Best Director nomination, because it was well deserved.

One thing that pleasantly surprised me was Jason Dean Hall’s sharp screenplay. The dialogue is actually pretty good, and it even has its funny moments. In particular, the early scenes between Taya and Chris.

Which leads me to Cooper. I have liked him for a long time, but only recently in David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle did he begin to show us that he truly can act. I know people are mad that Jake Gyllenhaal was snubbed for Nightcrawler, and I am right here with you: he was. But Cooper’s performance is perfect. When he feels pain, we feel his pain. Cooper’s strongest moments are when he returns from battle, and tries to cope with the world around him. He deserved the Oscar nomination.

American Sniper also deserved its Best Picture nomination, because it is without doubt one of the year’s best. It is a gritty, raw, tragic, and undeniably powerful war film about a great man who came, saw, and conquered. Like Eastwood’s best films, such as Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, it is a film that sneaks up from behind and rips your heart out.

This is a film that will haunt you for hours after it is over. When the film was over, everyone in the theatre stood up and headed for the exit in silence. I have been to plenty of funerals in my time, and those experiences came to mind as I left that theatre. The power of this film is unshakable. It is a true masterpiece. After seeing this, one thing is certain: Eastwood still has it.

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