- Deseret News - Wednesday, January 21, 2015

‘American Sniper’ (rated R) 3½ stars

“They feel invincible with you up there” are words from a comrade to Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle. When Kyle is on the rooftops with the enemy in the crosshairs, the men on the ground clearing the streets of war-torn Iraq are buoyed by his deadly skill. They come to refer to him as “Legend.”

Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, “American Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper, who was nominated for Best Actor for stepping into the role of Kyle, a self-described “regular redneck.” Kyle is portrayed in this film as a Texas good old boy who rode a little rodeo and was motivated to join the military by the terrorist attacks on America. This path leads him not only to the Navy Seals but to his wife, Taya, as well.

Kyle’s marksmanship in training is remarkable. During his first tour in Iraq, Kyle finds himself with a child and a woman in his sights who are about to unleash a grenade on advancing U.S. troops. With precision, he takes out the boy and then the woman when she picks up the deadly device from the fallen boy. Hollywood has obviously taken license with the specifics of events. Still, it captures harsh realities.

With each deployment, and there were ultimately four, Kyle becomes more deadly and more feared by the enemy, who dubs him the “devil of Ramadi.” But everything is taking a toll on the man insurgents have put at the top of their most-wanted list with an ever-escalating price on his head. His wife states her concerns succinctly: “If you think this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong.”

And Kyle isn’t changing for the good. When he finally comes home, he is withdrawn. He can’t sleep. His blood pressure is sky high, and he sees everything as a threat. It’s a caring physician who realizes something has to be done and introduces Kyle to other veterans who are dealing with the aftershocks of war, PTSD, lost limbs and other horrors. This is where our hero finds his postwar calling, giving him back his life and giving him back to his family.

Those familiar with the book and the story in general know of the shocking ending to Kyle’s saga. But for those who aren’t, we’ll end the storyline here.

This film, which viewers should know includes frequent strong language and strong, disturbing war violence, is finely crafted. The performances are terrific. Cooper is almost uncanny in his role. Sienna Miller, as the long-suffering Taya, is simply wonderful. The supporting cast delivers at every level.

The scenes of our troops going street by street and building by building in Iraq, according to those I know who were “in country,” are remarkably authentic. I have to warn of some very graphic, brutal and heart-stopping moments, but they serve the purpose of underscoring the split-second, agonizing decisions men and women in uniform are forced to make.



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