Month: January 2015

American Sniper – Review

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Bradley Cooper delivers one of his best performances to date in Clint Eastwood’s tense and powerful American Sniper. The film examines a host of moral issues surrounding a no mercy soldier, adding an extra dimension to the average war movie, but slips on a political and ethical front.

The film is based on the autobiography of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Cooper), the US military’s deadliest sniper with a record of 160 confirmed kills over the six-year span in which he served four deployments in Iraq.

The film opens with the first of numerous conundrums that Kyle faces throughout the process. Perched on top of a building on the first of his tours, he has his lens fixed on a small child, deliberating whether to put a bullet through him as he may or may not be carrying a bomb.

American Sniper intertwines between Kyle’s upbringing, consisting of his early ventures with his father shooting animals. We also view his life back at home before and in between deployment in which he first encounters Taya (Sienna Miller).

She plays an important role in the movie, imposing another key moral dilemma to Kyle as it becomes increasingly difficult to continue leaving her and their two children and potentially never coming home. In reflection, it’s just as problematic adjusting to life at home without fighting due to his willingness and desire to serve his country.

Cooper and Miller deliver what arguably are career best performances. Cooper, who visibly beefed up for the role, nails the no mercy yet damaged persona of Kyle alongside Miller who definitely lacks screen time despite her emotional presence.

It’s hard to escape Eastwood’s patriotic, right wing exploits throughout the movie however – as much could be determined purely from the title. American Sniper can’t help but scream “American war hero” time and again which surely will act as a motive behind it’s recent Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.

Steven Spielberg was originally involved in the project and it’s no secret that he was keen to add more focus to the Iraqi sniper who almost becomes Kyle’s rival in order to view both sides of the story. Would this make for a more interesting watch?

American Sniper won’t win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s a gripping and intimate interpretation of the memoirs of Kyle but Eastwood romanticises the American war hero image to an uncomfortable degree.

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Whiplash – Review

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Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash follows the story of a young and talented drummer studying at Schaffer academy in New York. The film expertly observes the pressures and stresses of working under such a manipulative director.

Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is a 19 year-old student, gifted with the sticks in his hand. The film opens with him practising his drumming and is a clear indication of how ambitious and determined he is. After impressing Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons), the director of the leading ensemble in the school, Neyman is promoted into the band. Here is where he discovers the strict conditions of working under the perfectionist Fletcher. Insults regarding his mother who ran away when he was young and having chairs thrown at him isn’t what Neyman expected.

However, he remains strong and as determined as ever to prove that he can be a great, continuing to practice at every opportunity, literally playing until his hands are blistering and bleeding.

Whiplash ultimately becomes a clash of two musical geniuses striving for perfection, illustrating the pressures and tensions to the extent where the audience are expecting either one to crack at any stage. Chazelle keeps the film strongly in the shadow of Neyman, tracking every single strain and emotion with the camera spending a lot of the time behind the shoulder of Neyman. Tempo is a major theme throughout the film in relation to the jazz numbers on the soundtrack which all make for an enthralling watch.

Teller and Simmons both deliver perfect performances. Teller, who is certainly coming of age, manages to truly reflect the development of Neyman, not only as a drummer, but also as a person. Teller spends the majority of the film in all kinds of pain; either sweating, bleeding or crying and he delivers every possible emotion his character endures.

Simmons standing in the opposite corner also perfects the role of the cynical, terrifying director, constantly pushing his band for perfection in the most intimidating approach possible. His quips and insults leave the audience wondering whether to laugh or sit in a state shock.

Whiplash is a dark and pulsating watch, which deservedly left Sundance with two awards under its arm. With the Oscar nominations just around the corner, it would be no surprise to see a number of honours coming the way of Chazelle’s creation.