Rating: The Good – 75.8 Genre: War, Drama Duration: 133 mins Director: Clint Eastwood Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
Bradley Cooper takes on the role of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, in Clint Eastwood’s take on the personal politics of war and the wearing effects it has back home. Putting in another immense shift, Cooper constructs a strong character that sways and bends under the stresses that come with his elite skill. Beginning with his training as a Navy SEAL, we follow Kyle through his four tours in Iraq and his intervening attempts to build a family, where a number of plots play out in successive manner. Plots ranging from the SEALS’ mission to take out a local warlord to Kyle’s personal but often thrilling battle with an elite enemy sniper. Eastwood is to be commended for maintaining the integrity of each of these plots while sewing them into the wider dramatic story concerning Kyle’s wife (Sienna Miller in a solid turn) and his increasingly debilitating PTSD. In fact, American Sniper is arguably the veteran director’s most artful film from the point of view of its structuring. His use of flashback and parallel scenes help to move the film forward so the audience is informed and engaged at an equally steady rate. The action sequences are less inspired with respect to Clint’s directing but their sheer scale tend to compensate for that. Where Eastwood’s touch truly lets him down, however, is yet again in the dramatic stakes. Always a relatively cold director, he fails to make the camera one with his protagonists and while this could have allowed for a more realist style, his pedestrian camera work is incapable of serving that end. In the end, much of Bradley’s good work is left unharnessed as what should be a very personal movie feels decidedly impersonal. American Sniper has been the subject of much political discussion concerning the “War on Terror” and the lauding of an elite killer who showed less remorse in real life than is depicted here but such criticisms are outside the scope of a straight up film critique and so, as a war movie with a dramatic edge, American Sniper must stand on its artistic merits alone. In that respect, it has much going for it even in spite of some directorial limitations.
Clint Eastwood’s undisputed directorial and acting masterpiece is one of the great revisionist westerns thanks largely to David Webb Peoples’ (Blade Runner) sublime screenplay. Eastwood stars as a former murderous and feared outlaw, William Munny, who changed his ways due to his wife’s staunch influence. When hard times hit upon him and his children, he reluctantly accepts an offer to track and gun down two men who disfigured a prostitute. The dark journey he undertakes sees him slowly transform back into the man he once was building up to one of the grittiest showdowns in western history as he and the sheriff (Gene Hackman’s nasty Little Bill) eventually lock horns. Unforgiven quite ingeniously plays on a mythological level despite its simultaneous forensic deconstruction of the western mythology. The story is replete with salty outlaws, each one more formidable than the last, and all going head to head in various memorable encounters. There are some real heavy hitters on the acting front with Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris significantly adding to the presence which Eastwood and Hackman provide. Hackman was given one of the best roles of his career and Eastwood was probably never better. The direction is inspired (not something one could always say about Eastwood’s movies) and in those moments when camera and dialogue come together seamlessly (such as the moment when Eastwood finally turns into “William Munny”) there are few western scenes that can compete.
Clint Eastwood directs and stars in this vintage espionage thriller about a mountain climbing classics professor who moonlights as an assassin for a shadowy government agency (don’t worry, it works!). When one of his colleagues is murdered he is sent on a climbing expedition to identify and eliminate the culprit. The only problem is they’re climbing a particularly dangerous mountain and one that has beaten him twice before. The Eiger Sanction is fairly a sweeping film which switches back and forth between Europe and the US as the story progresses. The mountain climbing stunts are spectacular with Clint doing all of his own. There are a couple of nicely interwoven sub-plots, a variety of colourful villains, and lashings of dry humour throughout. George Kennedy stands out in an excellent supporting cast and Clint is in fine form as the man of many talents.
Considering the praise Clint Eastwood’s more recent directorial projects have received, it’s surprising how little focus there has been on his earlier efforts especially given that they are of a far superior quality in both craft and entertainment value. His directorial debut, Play Misty For Me, is the perfect example of such given how well he balances a somewhat experimental style with a gripping story. He stars as a modestly successful disc jockey who is finds himself the focus of an increasingly frightening and disturbed young woman who develops an obsession with him after they share a one-night stand together. Jessica Walter is really very good as the stalker as she gives one extreme reaction after another a chilling believability. Eastwood for his part offers his usual steady presence but seems to revel in the chance to play a more emotionally exposed character that he had typically done up to that point in his career.
Behind the camera, he shows great patience as nothing is forced or rushed into. On the contrary, the film plays out with an unusually slow but welcome momentum. This makes the more violent sequences all the more effective as protracted periods of quiet drama are interrupted with the piercing mania of the obsessed Walter. While the palettes and style is very much of the 70’s, there’s more than a hint of 60’s cinema in how Eastwood sews everything together. The thriller element to the story is softly bedded in a soulful medley of jazz festivals and romantic interludes where dialogue is suspended in favour of music that was as experimental for the time as the cinematic wave Eastwood’s directorial debut was part of. All told, Play Misty for Me is a vintage quality thriller that despite being very much of its time will never lose its cinematic relevance due to the class and focus that went into its making.