THE BLOG
01/09/2015 09:21 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2015

Popcorn Preview: American Sniper

American Sniper (2014)
Cast includes: Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook), Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher), Kyle Gallner (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Director: Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven)
Writer: Jason Hall (Paranoia) Based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and James Defelice
Genre: Action | Biography | Drama (132 minutes)

The sounds are a mix of the call to prayer and tank movement. The scene looks like a post-war dystopia. It's Fallujah and this is Chris Kyle's first tour of duty. He's on a rooftop calling in the sighting of a man with a cell phone. He looks like he's reporting troop movements. Chris gets the green light, but the man disappears. A woman and a kid come out of the house. She's definitely carrying something. It's a grenade, and she gives it to the kid. "Green light. Your call." In a flashback, we see Chris back in Texas with his father. They're deer hunting and Chris takes a perfect shot the very first time. "A fine shot. You've got a hell of a gift," says Dad. Both Kyle boys are taught Kyle family values, like the difference between a sheep, wolf and a sheepdog. Sheep are weak. Wolves are aggressors. Sheepdogs are the ones who protect others from the wolves... a lesson Chris takes to heart from a young age. Chris and his brother want to be cowboys and they spend most weekends on the rodeo circuit. But when they watch the 1998 attack of the US Embassy in Dar Es Salaam on TV, Chris knows as a sheepdog, he needs to fight for his country.

At the recruiting office, they give him a brochure for the Seals... and we soon see Chris in basic training. "We're looking for warriors, not quitters." Training is brutal but Chris makes it to sniper school, where his "hell of a gift" sets him apart. At the local bar, Chris's demeanor sets him apart, too. "I'm not a redneck. I'm from Texas," Chris says when Taya tries to give him the brush off. Persistence pays off and Chris and Taya are married just months after 9/11 and right before Chris's Seal Team ships out. Back in Fallujah, Chris's laser focus and excellent aim get him noticed. His friend Biggles dubs him "The Legend" and the name sticks. But whatever he manages to do, he still thinks he should be doing more... for example, helping the marines on the ground. "We need you on over watch," his commander tells him. "All these guys... They know your name. They think they're invincible because of you."

American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle, a real life war hero, who served 4 tours of duty in Iraq... "The deadliest sniper in US military history." It's a remarkable movie... part macho adrenalin rush, part character study and part psychological drama. It will definitely be too violent for many moviegoers, which is a shame because it's so well done. It's a very gritty film... without obvious computer-enhanced pyrotechnics. A very beefed-up Bradley Coopers is phenomenal as Chris Kyle... part patriotic warrior, part no-nonsense skilled sniper, part family man and part psychological shut-in. "Even when you're here you're not here," Taya tells him. Chris's family means everything to him and he wants to be there for them, but each deployment makes him even more of a military killing machine. Before long, he has a bounty of $180,000 on his head, and the infamous jihadi sniper "The Butcher" is determined to collect. The filmmakers have taken some liberties with the Chris Kyle autobiography, but they've certainly captured the sheer hell of it. "This is evil like I've never seen before."

4 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
The story of the deadliest sniper in US military history

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Macho
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Zips Right Along
Visual Style: High-End Production
Nutshell: A Navy Seal in the Iraq War
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking

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You may want to read about films with similar themes:

Enemy at the Gate

The Hurt Locker