herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Gripping war tale that hits the target

Drama

As a director, Clint Eastwood has made great war movies: Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and the underrated Heartbreak Ridge. American Sniper is his best yet.

It's based on the life of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the most lethal sniper in US history. With 255 kills over four tours of duty in Iraq (a "mere" 160 recognised), this is the life of a man who, while deadly on the battlefield, struggled off it. And women are his Achille's heel. As a youngster, he finds his girlfriend cheating on him, and enlists as an elite US Navy Seal. He later marries Taya Renae (Sienna Miller), but duty comes calling after 9/11 and he's sent to Iraq.

His first kills are a mother and boy, and his conscience is wracked. But he's the toast of comrades - dubbed 'Legend' for his kills - and returns home for the birth of his first child.

But this is where the real warzone is as he grapples with the horrors of war.

Another tour brings him promotion and a deadly shoot-out with an enemy sniper. Back home, there's another child and a mounting sense that he can't adjust to family life.

Years on, and done with war, Chris is a mess, but finds a role in helping army veterans. Ironically, it's this act of redemption that seals his fate.

Cooper is a revelation as Kyle, while Miller is excellent. The foreign characters are, as usual, just faceless extras, but this, like the BBC series Warriors, is a gripping account of war.

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