FILM REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER (2014)

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Wayne Kyle: There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs, Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep. Then you’ve got predators, who use violence to prey on the weak. They’re the wolves. And then there are those blessed with the gift of aggression, an overpowering need to protect the flock. These men are the rare breed who live to confront the wolf. They are the sheepdog.

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Synopsis: The true story of Chris Kyle, the most deadly sniper in American history with over 160 confirmed kills over four tours during the Iraq war. However when he returns home to his family he can’t easily escape the war that now lives inside him.

Clint Eastwood returns to fine form in this gripping true story of American soldier Chris Kyle. The film opens in Kyle’s childhood with his strict Catholic father teaching him the respect for guns and to protect your own no matter what. It is these values that follow Kyle into adulthood when he begins to see America is under attack from foreign enemies. He joins the army and becomes a NAVY seal. His skills with a sniper rifle are quickly discovered by his superiors and he is promoted. Meanwhile Chris meets Taya and they soon fall in love and get married. However just before they get married the tragic events of 9/11 occur which sparks the American war with Iraq.

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Eastwood has a strong eye for action scenes from his early works such as The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) to Sudden Impact (1983) to Unforgiven (1992). Even his dramas can contain gripping action sequences such as Million Dollar Baby (2004) and Gran Torino (2008). It is during Kyle’s tours in Iraq where Eastwood’s direction really shines in his gripping and tension filled sequences involving Kyle having to take a shot, whether it is a child or mother or another skilled sniper these action sequences are breathtaking and elevate this film to a very high standard. Eastwood knows there is no black and white reason for the war or for taking a life and Kyle’s story is filled with compromised choices that no man should ever have to make. Eastwood also shows the human frailty of being in the war and taking so many lives as Kyle returns to a quiet and loving home but can’t get the screams and gunshots out of his head.

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Bradley Cooper gives a gripping performance as Chris Kyle not only physically (he put on mass pounds to appear bulky as the real Kyle) but also emotionally with his piercing eyes showing us the cost of war. He is riveting throughout and elevates the film to near classic status. Sienna Miller also turns in a strong performance as Kyle’s wife Taya who also must deal with raising a family and trying to save her husband from the war he can’t leave behind. The politics do become a bit shaky by the end of the film as Eastwood and Cooper show a man struggling with this devastating war however as the film ends Eastwood begins to portray Kyle as a true American hero however Cooper portrays him as a broken man who had given too much to his country with little reward. Although the politics are a tad unsteady, Eastwood and Cooper deliver a strong and riveting drama.

Rating: 4 Stars

FILM REVIEW: FOCUS (2015)

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Nicky: It’s about distraction. It’s about focus. The brain is slow and it can’t multitask. Tap him here, take from there.

Director: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie

Synopsis: Veteran con man Nicky teaches a young apprentice Jess in the art of the con. Never lose focus, however as Nicky grows feelings for his apprentice their latest con may become more difficult for everyone involved.

The old school charming Will Smith is back in form in his latest con caper romantic drama, Focus. Smith was the hottest star of the 90s with blockbuster hits such as Bad Boys (1995), Independence Day (1996), and Men in Black (1997). In the 2000’s he began to explore his dramatic side with the biopics Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) but still found time to provide blockbusters such as I, Robot (2004) and I Am Legend (2007) however the 10s haven’t been as kind to him with the box office and critical failures such as After Earth (2013) and Winter’s Tale (2014). As a comeback vehicle Smith has chosen a con artist caper film in the vein of Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and American Hustle (2013) however this film is a pale imitation at best.

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Although Smith returns to form with his charming one liners and buff muscles flexing through his stylish clothes, the film has a flawed script which never lives up to the potential of its excellent leads. Matching Smith’s charm is the beautiful Margot Robbie hot off her impressive debut in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Robbie is not only a sexy foil for Smith but she also has the acting ability to stretch her character from inept pocket thief to a skilled, sexy and appealing hustler. The plot revolves around Smith’s Nicky training Robbie’s Jess into a skilled con artist. Soon enough Nicky falls for Jess and decides to abandon her so he doesn’t “lose his focus” as a skilled con artist who can’t have anything or anyone stop him from completing the long con. Predictably they meet again three years later as Nicky is planning his next con which could make him millions.

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In a film like this I was expecting plenty of plot twists and clever set pieces involving people getting conned. Unfortunately there aren’t many twists and the final act is a convoluted mess which should have left the audience surprised instead of scratching their heads wondering what the point of the last two hours were. With impressive cinematography and good actors unfortunately the script and its surprises aren’t impressive and leaves this film feeling like a waste of everyone’s time.

Rating: 1 Star