Joe Smith | Chicago Reader

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Re: “Bradley Cooper is number one with a bullet in American Sniper

This review badly misses both the film's subtlety and its tone. Cooper's Kyle is not "unflappable" in his "moral certitude." The way to judge a character is not just by how his lines read on a sheet of paper, but how the actor says them and also what the actor conveys without speaking. Bradley Cooper, in a brilliantly nuanced performance, conveys contradiction while supposedly expressing certitude. His ostensibly steadfast lines often come across as defensive reflexes and attempts at self-brainwashing more than expressions of conviction. He wants to project faith (both religiously and in the military mission), but in doing so, he seems to be attempting to overcome doubt. Indeed, there is plenty of doubt and mania in Cooper's performance, but it is largely behind the eyes.

The notion that "the tragic irony of his death seems so far outside the movie's frame of reference" is absurd, for the film's tone from the beginning is deeply fatalistic. Indeed, the tragic death is sadly fitting for a film about the fatalism of war and violence. The film shows war as an affliction, not a game, and the war in Iraq is portrayed as an exercise in ambiguity and futility. J.R. Jones misses the movie's tone entirely, obviously seeing the film through a preconceived lens. Compare his ignorant analysis with that of Bob Kerr in the "Boston Globe." Kerr, a Vietnam veteran, writes that "American Sniper" proves the axiom that a good war movie is a good antiwar movie. Unlike Jones, he knows what he is talking about.

Posted by Joe Smith on 02/07/2015 at 8:37 PM

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