Director Clint Eastwood continues his quiet critique of the moviegoer's deep delight in cinematic violence. In this case, that means great swaths of gripping, based-on-a-true-story wartime action centered around Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper in full strong-silent-Texan mode), a good ol' boy who becomes a great old sniper for the Navy SEALs. (He's so good, in fact, that he becomes a target: as he hunts, so is he hunted.) But while Kyle adopts the unorthodox practice of keeping both eyes open as he peers into his scope, he seems not to notice much beyond the scope of the mission. Or if he does notice, he doesn't let himself get distracted. When his fellow soldiers start to crack under the strain of war, when his wife starts to crack under the strain of his absence, even when his lethal celebrity endangers the lives of his team — none of it is enough to give him pause. And Eastwood is always quick to take us back to the battlefield, where all those nagging questions become moot. Eventually, of course, the soldier must come home and face the struggles of peacetime living in the aftermath of wartime destruction. But that's a less thrilling battle to portray, and may result in a less glorious conclusion. (2014) — Matthew Lickona
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