Director Clint Eastwood is in top form telling the true story of Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history and a Navy Seal war hero. After "Jersey Boys", I was afraid Mr. Eastwood had lost his touch but at age 82, he is still going strong and with material close to his heart, in a setting he knows well, his direction is smart, crisp and to the point.
The film opens with a tension filled situation. With his eye on a potential threat, will Chief Kyle shoot or stand down? We will learn the answer eventually but in that moment, we flashback to the beginning of Chief Kyle's story and the introduction of Bradley Cooper as the adult Chris Kyle. Mr. Cooper has worked hard to hone his craft and this film is his best screen performance to date. He is mesmerizing as Kyle in a role that becomes increasingly more complex. As his worried wife at home, Sienna Miller is excellent, trying to keep her family and her sanity together with her husband fighting half a world away.
Chief Kyle did four tours of duty during the second Iraq war. We watch as his personality changes with each return home. War is hell and I can't even imagine how it changes a a person, let alone a successful sniper. The battle scenes are very realistic and harrowing but it is the scenes back home that are truly heartbreaking.
While the film is based on the true story, I do take some exception to Mr. Eastwood's depiction of Chris Kyle as a "saint". Everyone has their flaws but Mr. Eastwood's vision is narrow and Chief Kyle can do no wrong. "God, country and family" is his motto and he lives it without any blemish everyday. I am in awe of how this man lived his life and what he accomplished but watching his story, I couldn't help feeling he was too perfect. I would have appreciated the man more, flaws and all.
That aside, it's an important and patriotic story that people should see and Mr. Cooper should be proud of the performance that honors the man as well as the rest of the men and women who defend this country.