After blowing away bad guys across a few star systems away earlier this year, "Guardians of the Galaxy" actor Bradley Cooper is once again wielding a weapon in this weekend's "American Sniper" — and we're about as far away from Rocket Raccoon as possible on this one.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "American Sniper" is based on the true story of the late Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper who fought in Iraq following the events of 9/11. Critics are calling Cooper's work in "American Sniper" his best performance to date, with Eastwood also receiving praise for his direction and unflinching depiction of the toil of violence on the soldiers who inflict it.
Here's what reviewers say about "American Sniper":
"As a young boy, which is to say before he grows up into a burly, bearded Bradley Cooper, Chris Kyle receives a lesson in life from his strict Texan father. The world, according to Dad, is divided into sheep, wolves and sheepdogs, those rare, righteous souls called to protect the innocent from the wicked.
"It’s a tough, stark view of the order of things, one that guides Chris in his subsequent career as a Navy SEAL sniper and one that has, with some modification, informed much of the work of Clint Eastwood, the director of 'American Sniper.' Faithful in shape and spirit to the real Chris Kyle’s memoir, 'American Sniper' also reaffirms Mr. Eastwood’s commitment to the themes of vengeance and justice in a fallen world. In the universe of his films — a universe where the existence of evil is a given — violence is a moral necessity, albeit one that often exacts a cost from those who must wield it in the service of good." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times
Beyond the Rocket
"Star Bradley Cooper does some of his best acting ever here. Bulked up to make himself resemble, with respect to body shape, a large-scale nine-volt battery, Cooper suppresses the actorly knowingness he’s brought to most of his prior screen roles and gives his character here a simultaneous credulousness and edge. He feels like a dangerous guy—but not a malicious one. His lack of self-doubt never comes off as alienating in its steadfastness, even at moments when it seems like it’s misplaced, as when Kyle finds out for the last time that he can’t really be his brother’s keeper." — Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
The Sounds of Silence
"One of the most telling moments in Clint Eastwood’s remarkable 'American Sniper' comes after Chris Kyle, the real-life U.S. Navy SEAL and Iraq war hero played by Bradley Cooper, has picked off two targets—two human beings—he didn’t want to kill. Without looking away from his gun sight, the sniper reflects, silently and briefly, on what he’s just done. But what, exactly, does the moment tell of Kyle’s feelings? Nothing that can be put into words, and nothing that needs to be at that point. A man of few words, Kyle keeps himself at a safe remove from any feelings that might interfere with his fulfilling his lethal assignment. Mr. Eastwood’s film lets this good and anguished man speak for himself, and discover himself, at his own pace." — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
The Director's Vision
"'American Sniper' is imperfect and at times a little corny, but also ambivalent and complicated in ways that are uniquely Eastwoodian. Like so many of Eastwood’s movies since the 1990s—'Unforgiven,' 'Million Dollar Baby,' and 'J. Edgar' among them—it’s about a man doing something morally wrong in order to ensure a better world. And, like those earlier films, it doesn’t really question its protagonist’s values or justifications, instead focusing on the toll—as much spiritual as psychological—that his decisions take on him." — Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club
The Final Word
"Mapping the interior landscape of a damaged soul is something books do better than movies, but in Cooper’s recoils from sudden noises, in his slumping at a hometown bar when his wife doesn’t even know he’s back in the country and in his staring at the floor when thanked for his prowess, we learn much about the price warriors pay. Cowboys, adventurers, joyriders — these are exactly what our best fighting men are not. They suffer merely to be alive, when so many brothers lie in boxes draped with flags. 'American Sniper' does honor to them." — Kyle Smith, New York Post
"American Sniper" is in theaters now.