Friday, 16 January 2015



American Muscle.

132 Minutes. Starring: Bradley Cooper & Sienna Miller. Director: Clint Eastwood.

Do you take the shot? You're in the middle of a war-zone in the worst, horrendous conditions that are just inhumanly unthinkable. Your fellow troops, colleagues, brothers are below you, risking life and limb and its up to you on high, from a snipers position to have their back. To help make sure they leave this conflict with a medal around their necks rather than a folded flag in their wives laps. To above all to protect your fellow man. Suspicion is all around you, but so too are regular people trying to live their day-to-day lives between cruel and callous conflict. You see a young woman in the sights of your scope. She looks nice enough, but also a little suspicious. Do you put her in the cross-hairs? From her clothing she then pulls out the biggest grenade you've seen...and then she hands it to her son. Do you take the shot? That's the question here in Clint Eastwood's new movie with Bradley Cooper, as actor and director look at the brilliant book and 'legend' life of 'American Sniper' Chris Kyle. The most lethal sniper in U.S. military history who tragically died after four tours of military service, by being shot by a troubled veteran he was just trying to help. The cruel, tragic turn of fate that took this American heroes life is just part of the story of the measure of this man. Credited with around 150 kills, Chris Kyle may have taken more lives than minutes in this movie but he did so by doing his job and protecting and serving his country and fellow countryman in a hard fought war that just doesn't seem to be able to be won. There's more than one burning question raised here in Clint and Cooper's film on Chris. When a suicide bomber is not only going to die, but possibly take the lives of countless soldiers and innocent people around them and you could change it all in a split second decision, no matter the judgement we have to ask you again. Do you take the shot?

'Dirty Harry' certainly has the balls to do it! Clint Eastwood is prepared to take his shot at bringing one young mans story and all of the world that surrounds it and the divided opinions and outrage to the critical and public judgement of big-screen cinema. So much so that the mans first war torn script since his defining 'Flags Of Our Fathers' and 'Letters From Iwo Jima' double makes for arguably his best film since the veteran mind-warfare undertones of 'Gran Torino', but with a new 'Million Dollar Baby' packing on the pounds of muscle for a fleshed out performance this is as real and raw as it gets for the master of strength in subtlety. From the world changing South African game of rugby in 'Invictus' to his last dance and unsung number in his amazing, behind the big stage 'Jersey Boys' adaptation. With the worlds sexiest man dragged round from the back of Kyle's truck, Clint is yet again showing the real humanity behind the beauty of Hollywood's finest under the screaming spotlight of dark definitions. Just like when he helped Angelina Jolie show she was a real actress and not just a huge name and one-half power couple in the classic 'Changeling'. Now teaming up for a one, two punch with Bradley, Clint and Cooper bring something that he didn't quite critically receive with big-hitting leading men Matt Damon (in 'Hereafter') or Leonardo DiCaprio ('J. Edgar'), despite these movie moments being vastly underrated like Clint's non directorial 'Trouble With The Curve'. With a formidable filmography and classic collection some of the catalogue will always be flicked through by some newspaper readers and writers, but this one wont. Despite the fact that this six time Oscar hopeful needs a 'Best Director' nomination for one of the greatest directors we have, one who may even be better behind the lens then his big name was in front of it...sometimes though, where lucky enough to get both. Here however with his throwback lookalike son Scott Eastwood acting in the World War II of Brad Pitt's 'Fury', Clint Eastwood brings some modern warfare for the 'Call Of Duty' generation all the way down to the marvelled 'Punisher' homage references. Mixing the subtle beauty of a simple family life with the corrosive cruelty of combat this film shows the whole life of the man behind the trigger finger that took so many. There's harrowing scenes, but ones of great humanity too as the devils of Middle-Eastern war our met with the angels back home. Between the breaking and warming, felt hearts there's also humour in the form of drill sergeants for these Jarheads as insultingly hilarious as the ones that wear jackets made out of full metal. Looking at the scope of a man that see's his duty from a distance we also delve into his inner war between leaving family and country to fight for his and exactly that. Its a character study that brings confined closeness to all this conflict. If 'Fury' is the tank claustrophobic accompaniment to 'Saving Private Ryan', then this is the same marksmen point precision partner to the bombed out 'The Hurt Locker'.

In the line of fire there are plenty of action scenes that delve deeper than a tense and tight rooftop view however. Battling with 'The Hurt Locker' to show you first hand just what todays war is atrociously really like, more than any first-person shooter could ever capture. Clint evokes it all in this epic. All the way from some aerial, cinematography capturing to a classic cast. Sienna Miller in particular perfect as Mrs Kyle, standing by her man and with this and the fellow Oscar season, award worthy 'Foxcatcher' finally shaking off that tabloid tag. Still nothing in this tribute is more fitting and a tour de force than Cooper. New Oscar darling Bradley now has his third Academy Award nomination in as many a year and this one truly strikes gold standard. Far from the career beginning 'Alias' of a show sidekick or 'Wedding Crasher' jerk, the 'Hangover' megastar has truly woken up to a new career. And the 'Silver Linings Play Book' and 'American Hustle' chameleon character doesn't need Jennifer Lawrence to get his own Oscar, despite that 'Serena' standout. Now after three years and films with Lawrence, Cooper gets his third nomination for something different and more definitive, just like last years 'The Place Beyond The Pines' should have done over 'Hustle'. Now with this, a talking Racoon in last years biggest hit 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and a beast of a Broadway performance in 'The Elephant Man', if this is 40 for Mr. Cooper than he really did take that pill because right now he's 'Limitless'. Here muscling up, eating every 55 minutes and pumping iron to pounds of hench-pressing frame, Cooper changes again like a 'Raging Bull' by the Hollywood horns in a terrific transformation to play the grizzled bearded Kyle, all accented by a Texan state signature. A drawl as distinctive as the overall, outstanding, powerhouse performance all the way down to the behind the barrel brutality of brain chamber conflictions. Bringing the anxiety, unavoidable, gap bridging of 'Silver Linings' and his moving MTV award speech about more soldiers dying after war than during it, this is another passion project for Cooper who with his labour of love, character study of complexity also seen on stage right now in New York is joining the Leonardo and McConaughey likes of big name heartthrobs, heart-warming and breaking good to becoming Hollywood acting Gods. Now this 'American Sniper' joins 'Foxcatcher', 'Birdman' and all the other academies of talent. Still between this and the amazing acting of inspired imitation by Cooper nothing is more important here than the sniper himself Chris Kyle and all he's done. A man who told his wife before he died "imagine if we got Clint Eastwood to direct" after Spielberg dropped out. A real American hero that put his life on the line for more than just Hollywood. With the Academy, Eastwood and Bradley to this great man we join in sombre salute. Hoorah! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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