No matter where you stand on the war in Iraq debate, American Sniper is a film worth watching. I was torn when the film was released. Did we need another war film? Did we need a film before we were out of Iraq telling us whether the war was good or bad?
So I waited for the film to come out on DVD and Blu-ray, which happened this week, just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
I was surprised at how good the film was. I know, I know, it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Bradley Cooper). (It only won Best Achievement in Sound Editing). American Sniper is not an analytical film about war, instead war is the reality of the narrative. It is the story of a father, a husband, and a service man, Chris Kyle (Cooper).
Clint Eastwood is a brilliant filmmaker. We know this. Just take a look at Million Dollar Baby (2004) or his World War II films Flags of Our Fathers (2006) and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006). I had to remind myself of this fact throughout J. Edgar (2011).
Like Invictus (2009), this is a slow-paced film. Eastwood is not in a hurry to get you somewhere. But that’s part of Eastwood’s storytelling—getting you there—the journey. This slow-paced storytelling makes you pay attention to the camera angles, the shades of light, the seemingly random inclusions in the camera shot, and so on. We are hanging on through it all for the good parts.
As Eastwood weaves this tale through the shadows of Hoover’s complex life visually, I expected a juicy political drama. That’s what I was waiting for. Instead I got a tale about relationships. A somewhat unexpected tale.