There is plenty to appreciate in “American Sniper,” the latest from director Clint Eastwood.
The film captures the intensity of the front line of the Iraq war, as seen through the eyes of one soldier. It may not be quite as effective when action moves to the home front, but it is still a very solid war film.
Based on a true story, “Sniper” follows Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), one of the most decorated Navy SEALS in history. Kyle also was known as one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. history after recording 160 confirmed kills during his four tours in the Iraq war. The film follows Kyle through his time on the battlefield and his struggles between tours, trying to connect with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and his children.
“American Sniper” may not be quite a home run, but it is still very good. Cooper’s performance is commanding – the kind of work that grabs the audience from the opening moments. It’s one of the best works of Cooper’s career.
When “American Sniper” is on the battlefield, it is at its best. Eastwood has a keen sense of pacing for those moments, bringing an intensity that is as great as any film in the genre. The scenes are jarring and effective, putting the audience right in the crossfire.
When “Sniper” steps away from the battlefield, it isn’t as effective. Those moments lack the same emotional impact, with Miller’s role almost a complete throwaway. It’s material that was covered much better in “The Hurt Locker.”
It may fall short on the home front, but there is no denying the film’s impact during the war sequences. “American Sniper” may not quite be the Oscar contender its recent slew of nominations suggest, but it is still a very good film.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
Playing at: Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow)
Opening this week
Another Best Picture nominee, “Whiplash” (A), arrives in Bowling Green this weekend after a limited run. It’s one of 2014’s best films, an emotional powerhouse that features one of the most memorable performances in recent memory.
Miles Teller stars as Andrew, a first-year drummer at a prestigious music academy who gets the opportunity to be a part of the school’s most elite group of musicians.
The group is overseen by Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a ruthless instructor who will stop at nothing to push his students to greatness.
This results in an intense relationship, with Fletcher’s verbal and physical abuse serving as a catalyst for Andrew to prove him wrong. The more Fletcher pushes Andrew, the more determined he is to prove himself as one of the all-time great drummers.
Writer/director Damien Chazelle’s film is an intense clash between the two determined personalities.
Teller continues to show he is one of the more underrated young actors today, building off his strong work in 2013’s “The Spectacular Now.” There is a vulnerability in Andrew to prove everyone, including his family, wrong – an obsession that causes him to drive everyone close to him away. Teller conveys that vulnerability well.
But it is Simmons who makes “Whiplash” sizzle. His character is one of the most unlikable in recent memory. Here is a man that will do whatever it takes to push his students, even if it means doing and saying things that are anything but politically correct.
You come to dislike the character, but there is also a level of respect that Simmons brings to the character in his performance. Fletcher may not always do the right thing, but he believes what he does is right – pushing his students to reach their maximum potential.
It is the best performance by any actor or actress in 2014, one that will surely garner Simmons a Best Supporting Actor Oscar next month.
Simmons alone makes “Whiplash” worth the time, but the film has so much more going than his dynamic performance. The film resonates with power long after the final credits roll.
“Whiplash” is rated R for strong language, including some sexual references, and opens Friday at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10.
— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at www.bgdailynews.com/sports/blogs/straight_outta_compton or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at email@example.com.