Knee-jerk review: "American Sniper"

1. Good, but not great.  Mostly because there's a sense we've seen this kind of thing before.
2. The sniper angle is fresh and there are some affecting moments depicting how post-traumatic stress disorder manifests itself.  But The Hurt Locker and The Messenger, to us, offer stronger, more visceral looks at the physical and emotional costs of the Iraq War.
3. Bradley Cooper delivers a strong performance, though.  We're beginning to believe he can do anything.  Come a long way from the one-note jerk he played in Wedding Crashers.
4. Director Clint Eastwood is over 80 years old now.  This isn't his best film (for that, take a look at Unforgiven, obviously, but also Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby) but it sure doesn't seem like a film made by a senior citizen, either.
5. Yeah, we read the book.  And yeah, we know about the libel lawsuit involving real-life sniper Chris Kyle and all of the other unfortunate untruths he may have told.  But this post isn't about the book.  Or the real Chris Kyle.  This is about the movie, a medium that has it's own unique demands and requirements.
6. Unlike Bradley Cooper, we remain ambivalent about Sienna Miller.
7. As subtle and believable as the movie treats PTSD for so much of its running time, it's a little jarring that in just a handful of scenes towards the end, suddenly Kyle seems cured and back to his old self.
8. We forget where we read it, but somewhere out there is an article about the extra emotional pain felt by snipers who see a bullet's horrific, destructive force through the scope.  There can be no emotional detachment for the sniper.
9. The film's been politicized by people like Michael Moore on one side and Sarah Palin on the other, but is the film itself political?  Not overtly.  It doesn't feel like a right-wing praise of the war.  And it doesn't feel like a leftist critique of the war either.  But you could probably read it both ways.  There's a matter-of-factness to the story, which may be the reason both sides can project onto it their own messages and meanings.