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Review: Bradley Cooper An Elite Actor In ‘American Sniper’

Review: Bradley Cooper An Elite Actor In ‘American Sniper’

Review: Bradley Cooper An Elite Actor In ‘American Sniper’
January 16
17:17 2015

Dalton LaFerney / Views & Digital Editor

“American Sniper” not only deserves the applause of movie critics and the prestige of Hollywood gold, but it’s also a film that should be screened in psychology classes. It’s the kind of film that offers beautiful symbolism, bringing to life a true story.

This Clint Eastwood film is one of his best, and is more than a film about a sniper’s kills. It will offer you more than feelings of patriotism; the film will encourage true gratitude to veterans because of the stirring performance of Bradley Cooper, who created a personality behind Chris Kyle, an American hero.

Eastwood’s portfolio of war movies includes “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letter from Iwo Jima.” His style of war movies is unique, and in “American Sniper,” Eastwood pushes that envelope, enabling Cooper to give an honorable performance.

While many war films exploit battlefield tension, such as gunfire, massive explosions and carnage, “American Sniper” is more about the cerebral side of fighting. A warrior is more of a thinker, someone who has purpose not only in battle, but in life.

Cooper’s emotional acting blesses the audience with a chance to understand better the battles fighters face. From the very beginning of the film, Cooper’s character has a definitive role — not just in terms of acting — but as Kyle, a man whose father was portrayed in the movie as a wise, protective spirit.

Kyle’s father stresses the importance of defending one’s own. “Blessed with the gift of aggression,” he says, that line relating to his message: to be a sheep dog, a protector of the innocent — do what’s right, a theme ever present in “American Sniper.”

The film is incredibly insightful and tells the story about the legendary sniper with the most recorded kills in U.S. history. No other actor could have done what Cooper did with this role. As Kyle, he not only has a keen eye, but he has great vision; he knows what must be done. You can see the brutal emotions on Cooper’s face in every scene. As a sniper, the battle is often psychological, displayed fantastically in Cooper’s conscious eyes.

His very first kill is a young boy, followed by a woman, presumably the boy’s mother. The audience sinks into Cooper’s eyes, so invested in the war and his purpose. Throughout the film, Cooper’s face becomes noticeably graver, his soul more punished.

He’s calm and collected, careful not allow emotion to supersede calculation. After all, a warrior understands the fatal consequences of an overloaded heart.

But, ironically, it’s heart that gleams from Kyle’s soul in every decision of his life. When a news broadcast reports a terrorist attack on the United States, a patriotic shiver creeps up his back and pushes him closer to his purpose. Later in the film, the 9/11 attacks demand Kyle enlist in the military, like so many heroic soldiers. True anger cries out from Cooper during the scene, a moment to not be forgotten by critics.

Kyle would not be complete if it weren’t for his wife, Taya, played by Sienna Miller. Only she has a heart that matches her husband’s, their bond intense and romantic from the beginning. Miller’s performance as her husband’s rock and caretaker is outstanding. When Kyle approaches her at a bar, Taya is aloof to his interests. Eventually, as Cooper creates a character we can love and be someone to whom we can show affection, she blossoms, allowing Cooper to be her protector. She rises and falls with the same cadence to which Kyle walks. When he is bright, she shines. As the fog of war overtakes Kyle, Miller breaks hearts with her devout burden to her husband’s well-being.

Miller and Cooper exemplify the disconnect between combat veterans and civilians back home. Cooper’s purpose is back in Iraq, and in between his four combat tours, he manifests the longing to return to service. While Cooper reflects and wishes, Miller, knowing she’s losing him, lives to wrangle back her husband to again be the man she married.

Cooper and the surrounding male cast display the light-hearted yet vivid relationships of servicemen at war. They joke, and Cooper smiles. They battle, and Cooper protects them from above, a sniper; a sheep dog. These actors create characters we can love.

The film is not overly gory, but the ideological difference between Americans and terrorist fighters is illustrated perfectly, made better by the flashbacks to Kyle’s upbringing, showing the audience his roots and morals. The men fight an enemy that is elusive and terrible. In one seen, a young boy is killed in the most barbaric way imaginable.

Throughout the movie, an infamous enemy sniper is present in Kyle’s mind. And he’s a thorn in the Americans’ side. The sniper is an important plot device, as he is the antagonist and contrasts Cooper’s character well. Kyle seeks to destroy him. Before his first kill, Kyle learns of this sniper. Finally, in the climax, Kyle eliminates the sniper, shooting him from more than a mile away. As the sniper eluded Kyle the entire film, Kyle is finally ready to go home once the deed is done, his mission accomplished.

In the scenes leading up to the final shot, Cooper perfectly shows the audience how the kills, his loving wife and the elusive sniper all depress his soul. In the final battle, Eastwood depicts a giant sand storm hurling toward the battle sight. The storm is important, a symbolic end to the overwhelming grief manipulating Kyle’s mind. The sand darkens the streets, cutting of vision to Kyle and company. At one point — a turning point — he is hit, falling to the ground only to get back up to reach safety.

He leaves behind his sniper rifle in the storm and returns home to rotate back into civilian life. It’s a difficult adjustment, but he does so, now recognizing his new purpose — to raise his children just as his father did for him. Kyle was murdered when he was helping a fellow veteran adjust to life back home, a true American tragedy.

Featured Image: Actor Bradley Cooper addresses the crew of the USS Ronald Reagan underway in the Gulf of Oman in July 2009. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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