americansniperSplit-Second Decision
 American Sniper
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman and Eric Close
Director: Clint Eastwood
Scriptwriters: Jason Hall, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice from the book by Chris Kyle
Cinematography: Tom Stern
Village Roadshow/Warner Brothers
Rating: R for war violence
Running Length:  133 minutes
Chris Kyle was a member of the elite, a U. S. Navy SEAL. In war or on American ground, they aim with precision and wait for the order to fire. Marksman is the polite term and sniper is the common term from the word “snipe,” which is to unerringly hit a target when least expected. The sniper has been portrayed in other films from Mark Wahlberg’s “Shooter” to Tom Berenger’s “Sniper” and “Sniper 2.” Chris Kyle was real and his story was told in his autobiography, “American Sniper,” adapted here by Jason Dean Hall, plus directed by Clint Eastwood. Bradley Cooper, yes, the same from “The Hangover” films plays Chris Kyle and you hardly recognize Cooper, with a muscular physique, beard and kind of a swagger. This is a guy to whom a gun is a person and not an object.
The story of Kyle’s life is told almost like a bio-pic, starting with childhood shooting lessons from Dad, SEAL training and flashbacks to Kyle’s four tours of duty during the Iraqi Crisis, during which he achieved 160 confirmed kills, a record. Home became barren rock amid a strange language, rather than the comforts of a wife and children. The psychological stress of shooting people doesn't come to Kyle until his last tour when his judgment may be faltering. Then, he decides he has had enough, but the mental baggage of it all is with him, always, and not something to be peeled off like a bandage, it’s more part of the DNA now. Military friends are played by Luke Grimes and Kyle Gallner.
Kyle was married to Taya (Sienna Miller) and it literally was love at first sight. He was a gentleman in a town of roughnecks and the attraction kept through the marriage, with  children. His many military friends viewed him with awe because of his marksmanship abilities and Kyle did volunteer work with wounded veterans on a shooting range.
The dramatic moments come during warfare such as the beginning of the film where Kyle has to decide whether to shoot a woman and child because they may be carrying an explosive. This decision comes with the sniper territory and it is never easy to march your way through the split-seconds of decision.
Clint Eastwood is an old hand at directing military films, when to have the camera on the shooter and when to have it on the target. Music is appropriate for the film, but no composer is listed.  Bradley Cooper gives us a straight-forward Chris Kyle, who was afraid of nothing and worked, sometimes a mile away from the action. War is intense and gradually, over the duty tours, we see the man start to waver a bit inside. Despite Cooper’s beard, you can get these expressions. Sienna Miller as Taya has a role that requires her to be a bit nagging at times, and we get the picture and don't need repetitions of it. The rest of the cast just moves with the story and with camouflage and beards, it is hard to tell one actor from another.
“American Sniper” is quite the action film about a real-life person and you know from the headlines what happens later. The film is about the first part of Kyle’s life and how war and what it entails  can be as much a part of a person as their clothing. Once a SEAL, always a SEAL.
*Bradley Cooper has been nominated for an Oscar for his role of Chris Kyle.

Copyright 2015 Marie Asner
Dead Eye        
Follow the steady needle compass,
moon tries to hide in a tropical cloud bank.
I don't exist in any page of any report.
At the bare edge of sane, a certain sharpness
of the mind is always present,
and we are shadows in this land.
Crawl to our place before the sun sends an alert.
Fingers are sweat-drenched in this heat
and I had the balcony in my sights for a long time,
enough for a nearby flower to unfold its petals
in the sun and close again at dusk.
Straight line to the railing…flower moves,
breeze is up and changing…re-calculate.
Vans come up the hill toward the house
sounds of laughter, bits of conversation
drift our way even this far.
Done and they want him
but are afraid to go near,
How many of them, they scream?
He lies staring at a sky that stares back
We turn back, a mile away,
behind us, a country’s future
is being planned. For us, out of the mountains,
out of the jungle to a hidden boat
and knowing the person
you long to be with is already there.
Sometimes in your jagged dreams there is an image,
like a faded photograph, the instant of upright
and the instant of falling…a trigger pull caught in time.
Marie Asner (2013)