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Clint Eastwood has spent much of his forty-plus-year directing career grappling with issues of violence, "Play Misty for Me" to "Unforgiven" to "Million Dollar Baby."

With "American Sniper" he is very much back in the thick of things. The cold fact of blood-spilling, the adrenaline rush that leaves morality behind, the consequences of taking action, the lingering, almost paralyzing effect of past strikes. Eastwood keeps moralizing to a minimum, as usual, preferring to let the audience examine the evidence.

The evidence in this case is the real-life sniper Chris Kyle (a pumped-up, drawling Bradley Cooper), a soldier credited with over 150 confirmed kills during four tours of the Iraq War, the most in history. Kyle was a 30-year-old rodeo cowboy from Texas when a terrorist act on television inspired him to join the Navy and become a SEAL sharpshooter.

The script by Jason Hall, based on Kyle's autobiography, predictably but efficiently alternates between the military and the personal. Eastwood takes him through training, then introduces him to the young beauty, Taya (Sienna Miller), he will marry. On their wedding day, Kyle is told he's shipping out to Iraq.

In Iraq, Kyle becomes the guardian angel of death, perched on rooftops while his fellow soldiers work the streets below, picking off approaching threats. It's immediately obvious that he's good at his job and soon he's simply called "The Legend."

What he's not so good at is relating to his family when he gets back home. So he keeps returning to Iraq and the body count keeps rising.

The fluidity and tension of the battle scenes is breathtaking, Eastwood at his cinematic best. But it's the ever-tightening knot inside of Kyle the director really wants to understand. Violence is just. Violence is awful. Violence, damnably, is.

TLong@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/toomuchTomLong

'American Sniper'

GRADE: B+

Rated R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references

Running time: 132 minutes

"American Sniper" (R ) Director Clint Eastwood again looks at violence, this time following the real life of sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), credited with over 150 kills in Iraq. (132 minutes) GRADE: B+

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