Clint Eastwood’s eighty-four years told on him in his insipid adaptation of the Broadway musical ‘Jersey Boys’ (2014).
What might have been an ignominious swan song for a stellar career is laid to rest by his robust but typically insightful latest film – it is a mighty return to form.
As a high-profile Republican, he was never going to make a movie set during the war in Iraq without drawing the ire of those opposed to that conflict and American foreign policy in general. But for mine, the story is about an individual rather than a cultural monolith.
It is a close study of how a man is indelibly marked by family nurturing and the milieu in which he grows up.
Based on the real life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, portrayed with unblinking intensity by Bradley Cooper, Eastwood follows his subject from his childhood in Texas, where he hunted deer with his Dad, to the rubble and chaos of the Middle East, where Kyle earned legendary status as a rooftop sniper.
You can argue as long as you like about whether to depict an action is to condone it, but the harsh reality is that Kyle was blowing Arabs’ brains out while the rest of us were posting platitudes on Facebook.
He is shown to be an honest, upright cowboy who, with a one-eyed sense of justice, has unthinkingly put himself on the patriot’s path.
Believing that his country’s enemies must be defeated and inculcated with the mob ethic of military training, he is given a gun and sent forth to uphold the cause of flag and country.
Kyle, like most of us, believes without any doubt that he is the good guy, but he ultimately pays a heavy price for his pragmatism and ruthless efficiency.
Eastwood is not concerned with geo-political questions, but because he cannot free himself entirely from the morality of the Wild West his movie’s brutal simplicity can equally be seen as its greatest strength or its fatal weakness – I favour the former.
~ John Campbell