American Sniper - ITV

Bradley Cooper takes aim

An excellent biopic about Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history. 4/5 stars

Bradley Cooper is superb in this thrilling and troubling biopic about Navy Seal Chris Kyle. His prowess with a rifle during four tours of duty in Iraq won him renown as the most lethal sniper in US military history, with 164 confirmed kills.

Cooper portrays Kyle as a gung-ho American patriot whose black-and-white view of good guys and bad guys is such that his conscience remains clear. Or so he says. But, as portrayed by beefed-up Cooper, his increasingly haunted eyes tell a different story.'If you think that this war isn't changing you you're wrong,' his wife (Sienna Miller) tells him at one point when he is Stateside, his growing emotional distance from his family painfully apparent. 'You can only circle the flames so long.'

His directing eye still sharp at the age of 84, Clint Eastwood doesn't simply circle the flames, but gets right into the heat of combat, staging the action with gripping immediacy and clear-sighted accuracy while also telling us much about masculinity and violence, trauma and denial, and America's fatal romance with guns.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.