American Sniper in Dolby Atmos

American Sniper introduces us to Chris Kyle, on his first tour of duty in Iraq as he’s protecting an advancing Marine patrol. Through the scope of his sniper rifle, he spies an Iraqi mother as she hands a grenade to her preteen child with the intention of killing as many Americans as they can. Kyle must choose to take the life of this kid or risk losing his brothers in arms. To Kyle, the choice is clear: He must protect the troops at any cost. And so we can understand why he went on to become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, with 160 confirmed kills during his four tours.

It’s scenes such as this that make this movie one of the best of the year, but it’s not without its share of controversy. There are those who say the film glorifies war; apparently they didn’t watch the same film I did, because it does nothing of the sort. In fact, it shows what happens to our soldiers when they’re placed into hellish conditions and then must eventually come home—if they’re lucky enough—and somehow go on with their lives without letting what they’ve experienced affect their families and friends. It’s here that director Clint Eastwood shines, and it certainly helps that Bradley Cooper delivers a career-defining performance as Kyle. Long after the credits roll, you’ll be thinking about the impact of war and wondering how anyone can psychologically survive the experience. digitally shot production is fantastic and has several different looks throughout the movie, depending on the scene. The flashback sequences to Kyle’s youth in Texas burst with color as he’s hunting with his father; and during combat, you see every bit of dust and grime on the soldiers’ uniforms and faces, with every minute detail coming to life.

While the video is outstanding, it’s the Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core) that’s the hero of the A/V presentation. Directional cues place you right in the middle of war, with helicopter flyovers that might send you diving for cover. As Kyle endures his SEAL training in San Diego, the crush of the waves on the beach engulf the room, and when he’s on the firing range, the bullets zip past and impact the back wall as they find their mark. Additionally, as the camera angle changes, the bullet hits on the target move to a different point within the room. Things really heat up during Kyle’s fourth tour of duty when a sandstorm overcomes the troops. The soundstage is loaded with activity coming at us from all directions, with bullets whizzing by and the howling wind encompassing the home theater. Scenes such as this will be a great selling tool for object-based audio.

Sadly, the supplements are a sparse affair with just a retrospective look at crafting the story of Chris Kyle, plus a making-of featurette. While both are informative, I would like to have seen more background information on the real Kyle, but I guess it’s better than nothing. The set also includes a DVD and an UltraViolet Digital Copy. A further bonus is that Warner will donate one dollar of every purchase to the Wounded Warrior Project, a very worthy charity. This disc is highly recommended.

Blu-ray Studio: Warner Bros., 2014
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1
Length: 132 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner