The film was meditative, slow and methodical in parts and action packed and tense in others. Bradley Cooper really steps up to new levels in the acting department here. He’s severely bulked up and sports a believable Texas accent that he can even hold down in dramatic moments. He took a small step towards dramatic acting in Silver Linings Playbook, and though it was believed back then that the most thanks should go to David O. Russell’s direction and a good agent, Bradley Cooper shows here that he has plenty of character to go around.
There are two types of good actors. There are those such as Jack Nicholson who you never forget who they are, but their magnificent presence enhances your understanding of the character they play. Then there are those like Daniel Day Lewis, the chameleons who completely disappear into their roles. I am still unsure which one Cooper is as he maintains a bit of both. I looked onscreen at times and forgot he was there and instead saw Chris Kyle. Other times when I wanted to sympathize with him I saw Bradley Cooper, yes even the guy who voiced Rocket Raccoon. It’s his ability to reach beyond the okay script and pull out something like that, while maintaining character that makes this upon analysis a fascinating performance. Oscar-worthy even.
As for the direction, Eastwood at age 84 remains sharp and efficient. His relaxed and straightforward style from the trailer, down to the opening credits and the choice of font. Nothing is needlessly flashy or gets in the way. The climactic sequence, masterfully shot as taking place inside a sandstorm is tense and must have been hell to shoot because it is so effectively coherent. I was able to tell all of who and what is onscreen, who is shooting at who etc. And the scope of the film of course is smartly focused on Chris Kyle alone. This is his movie and his story, and with this piece his legacy will remain proud.
My biggest criticism with the film would be in the lack of context in some combat scenarios, as expertly staged as they are feel somewhat meaningless and had me occasionally shifting in my seat. With the leisurely pace though, and serving as a commentary on the cogs of war through the mind of one of its deadliest combatants, the feeling of emptiness and questionable meaning gives weight to the film and its themes. I don’t feel I will have to recommend this film to you, if you don’t know by now. You can listen to sound of praise from others as this is a film that will be seen by very many.
Spoiler Tidbit: I would have liked to see a more prominent shot of Kyle dropping his rifle the second time.
After seeing the film; Video Game Adaptation that Eastwood would be suited to direct: Far Cry 2