American Sniper

American Sniper is a red, white and blue story of a Texas cowboy who serves four tours of duty in Iraq. He is real life Navy Seal Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a man with a deadly aim.

Kyle’s story, unlike those told in Lone Survivor, Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker includes significant amounts of time spent stateside between tours and after his final tour. Wife Taya (Sienna Miller) is supportive and understanding of the fact that he can’t dial things back when he’s at home. Kyle loves his family but keeps feeling the need to go back for more action.

And what action it is! Director Clint Eastwood brings a taste of what combat must be like in the Mideast, where you never know if a civilian has a bomb strapped to his or her body. The engagements Kyle and his crew have with the enemy reveal the peril that troops must constantly be aware of. (Some of the combat scenes were filmed in Morocco.)

Cooper’s not the guy I might’ve cast in this role, but he is excellent here. (Although his Texas accent tends to come and go.) He manages to bring both the hard edge of the warrior and a softer side as a husband and father. Cooper does have good range.

American Sniper enjoyed excellent buzz last year but failed to win significant love from year-end critics awards. Lately, though, buzz has trended up again and the film received 6 Oscar nominations including Best Film and Best Actor.

The Chris Kyle story has a sad ending. But Americans looking for a hero will find one in American Sniper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lone Survivor

Spoiler Alert! The title of this movie is Lone Survivor.

Despite that big giveaway, Lone Survivor is a pretty good war movie. Set in 2005 in Afghanistan, the film is based on true events.

Four Navy SEALs are sent to check out a village where a Taliban leader is believed to be hiding out. The frogmen (who do this mission on dry land) are Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Axe (Ben Foster).

After being ‘coptered in and dropped off, they scoot across a mountaintop and begin to monitor the village below. Their communications gear fails and they cannot make contact with their base commander (Eric Bana).

So they wait. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, up walks a group of locals with a herd of goats. They are unarmed. Do the SEALs kill them, tie them up or let them go on their way? Alas, they choose the last option, which soon leads to a confrontation with Taliban fighters.

The SEALs engage in a firefight that is fierce and brutal. The battle is on a hillside and the four Americans take some tough falls down the inclines. Being outnumbered by a large margin, all except Luttrell are eventually taken down. With help from a group of locals who are anti-Taliban he makes it out alive.

Lone Survivor is not a political film. It does not judge American involvement in the region. The men who fight are fighting for their county, yes, but also for one another.

I read Jon Krakauer’s excellent book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman last year. It described a mission in Afghanistan with bad planning, communication snafus and clumsy execution not unlike this one. The two tales do not inspire great faith in our military.

They do, however, generate appreciation for the men who fight. Stick around for the sequence at the end of the film which offers a salute to the real life fighting men.