HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: American Sniper
HTS Overall Score:88
I love Clint Eastwood. He’s one of only three actors that I collect EVERY movie he’s ever played in, no matter how good or how weak the movie is, and his career as a director has kept me enthralled for many years as well. “American Sniper” took the cinemas by storm this winter and I so desperately wanted to see it in theaters. Much to my chagrin I was forced to wait for the Blu-ray release and experience it at home. Chronically the life of America’s most deadly sniper, Chris Kyle, the movie tracks him from childhood up until his untimely death at the hands of another PTSD sufferer back on American soil. Clint has a dramatic take on war, and one that I tend to understand and feel comfortable with as well. His latest take on the legendary sniper is great, but also suffering from a few flaws that keep it from being a truly GREAT movie.
We kick start the movie by watching in on Chris (Bradley Cooper) as he performs his first human kill as a Navy Seal sniper. Flashing back years past we see Chris growing up in Texas, taught by a good old country father who sees the world in black and white. As he put it, there are three types of people in the world. The sheep (those who don’t see the evil that’s out there), the wolves (the predators who seek to do harm to others), and the sheep dogs (those who have strength and power and choose to use that strength to protect others). Taking that mantra to heart, Kyle grows up, seeking one thrill after another in the rodeo ring, only deciding to take it to the next level by joining the Navy Seals. Coming back to that first shot of the movie, it’s a full on race to the end as Chris soon becomes the most decorated and most dangerous sniper in all of U.S. history. Racking up over 160 confirmed kills over four tours, he becomes a legend to the men around him. The only problem is, there really are no legends. There are no perfect heroes, only imperfect men who do the best they can. Sometimes with results that far exceed those of the people around them.
In between his four tours of duty, Chris tries (tries being the operative word here) to have a family with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller), and while he loves his family, the harsh responsibility of war weighs heavy on his shoulders. This responsibility and single minded focus does nothing but play havoc with his home life. Taya is left at home with his son while Chris is out there hunting a legendary sniper (controversial due to the fact that this sniper’s existence has never been officially confirmed), as well as an insurgent leader based off of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Chris doesn’t appeared to have seen the world in shades of grey as much as more black and white. His entire mission is to wipe out the evil that is rearing its ugly head. The same evil that tortured children in the street to make a point to a father, and the same evil that has a mother give a Russian grenade to her child to go try and ambush a group of Marines. The world is very rarely all grey, but I still believe that there is a great deal of black and white issues out there as well. Chris saw those issues, and used the skillset that he was trained for to try and negate those black issues. The unfortunate side effect was having to come home with PTSD and having to re learn living life as a normal human being again. The military is something I have deep abiding respect for, but I also have to realize that those who engage in open combat sacrifice something more deep and impactful than body parts. A piece of them is altered forever, and even if that person learns to change and adapt with that alteration, they also have to live with the pain and suffering endured by taking a life as well.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45098[/img]I’ve heard a lot about the movie and its controversy over the last several months, and I can see both sides. Chris has made some claims that don’t really hold up about his post war life. There are signs that his larger than life ego started writing checks that his mouth couldn’t cash. I’ve also heard allegations that Clint Eastwood was white washing the character, making him out to be a legend and hero that he wasn’t. Respectfully I have to disagree. Clint Eastwood has always been a man that despises war. If you watch all of his war movies or movies ABOUT war events you start to see the idea that Clint really despises it. However, he is also a big fan of the military and the men and women who give their lives in service for the rest of us. Chris Kyle was not a perfect man. He was a man who had an exceptional skill at shooting that sniper rifle of his in service to his country. I don’t think he was an idol, or a hero due to him being a perfect man. However I have to hold my hat in my hand in respect to the dedication and skill he displayed on a job that not many men are qualified for. In that respect I do consider him a hero.
The pacing of the movie is mildly flawed here. The film jumps back and forth across the timeline, many times with quick edits that feel rather sudden and jarring. One moment he’s in the middle of a battle, and the next scene it’s assumed that we understand that his tour was over and he’s back in the states. The first couple times it happened I took it in stride, but after happening for over an hour I realized that this was Clint’s version of a scene wipe. Secondly I feel as if Eastwood just took the biography of Kyle and mapped it out word for word. That leaves a little bit of character development on the table and some of the conflicts that he was put under doesn’t carry the same impact as it could have with proper exposition. While not a flaw, I do have to chuckle at the notorious “Eastwood one take” situation that cropped up on set. If you’ve paid attention to the movie at all, you’ll see a seen where Chris Kyle is holding his newborn daughter in his arms and it’s VERY obviously a doll wrapped up. Supposedly Clint Eastwood is famous for taking only 1, maybe 2, takes per scene and the real life baby they were using wasn’t available that day. So, what does he do? He takes a doll, wraps it in baby clothes and ahead goes the shooting.
Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45106[/img]Warner’s 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray is a thing of beauty. Crisp and clean at all times, it showcases wonderfully fine detail across the board. The movie is supposedly color corrected with a bit whiter push than the theatrical release, but since I did not see it in the theater I will have to take others words for that piece of information. There is a dusky blue/green tinge to the film, with some bright whites that give the Iraqi environment a very sun weary look. Facial detail is simply phenomenal as you can see every bit of stubble on Chris’s roughhewn face. Black levels are very strong, although I noticed two scenes (the bar scene where Chris calls his wife near the end in particular) that shows some black crush, and lack of shadow detail. Clarity is incredible and gives the viewer a clear picture at all times, without any major artifacting or digital manipulation post filming. Excellent all the way around.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45114[/img]Humina humina humina Hermeine! Oh dear goodness gracious me, “American Sniper” is blessed with a simply fantastic Dolby Atmos track (7.1 Dolby TrueHD for those of you without an Atmos setup) and it’s an experience for sure. The opening scene of the movie sets the pace with a tank rumbling over debris, rattling everything in sight on my back wall, and an amazing sense of immersion into the world of war. There is never a dull moment in the movie, with lots of amazing directional queues and fantastic surround usage. The front sound stage is alive with gunshot, rattling tank vehicles and the shouts of Navy Seals, while the surrounds flabbergasted me some of the best rear support I’ve ever heard. Gunfights shift around the viewer as the camera pans and turns around. A machine gun firing three round bursts to the front can suddenly be heard from the right surround as the camera shifts with its back right hand to the screen, and incredible amounts of ambient details floor through. Creaking doors, clattering hoof beats, or just the crunching of booted feet on desert sand, all come through with spectacular clarity. I just HAVE to reiterate the fact that the surrounds are simply amazing on this track. One of the best I’ve ever heard. LFE is deep and powerful, giving tight punch to the explosions and a sense of weight to the heavy gunfire. It’s never an all-consuming level of bass, but my sub lights were constantly flashing as the heavy low end intertwines itself with every fiber of the audio track. Dialog is strong and clear, with a nice balance to the cacophony and mayhem of the war scenes around them. A superb track that has easily become one of my go to tracks for a detailed sound stage.
• One soldier’s story: The journey of American Sniper
• Making of American Sniper
“American Sniper” is a VERY good movie. I had a complete blast watching it and coming from the southwest, I completely understand with Kyle’s viewpoints and growing up situation. The film had a few flaws in the pacing and characterization department, but it’s a thrilling movie that kept me engaged the whole time. At over 2 hours and 14 minutes I barely looked at the runtime passed until 2/3 of the way through. Video and audio are simply demo material and another notch in the Dolby Atmos gun belt for great audio presentations. I would have preferred a few more extras to make this a truly fantastic Blu-ray release, but I heartily give the movie two thumbs up. Definitely give it a watch
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Jason Hall
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD core), French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 134 minutes
Own “American Sniper” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on May 19th from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Buy American Sniper On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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