I don’t really understand the political yammering surrounding this film by Clint Eastwood about the most prolific sniper (160 kills) in American military history. Some are calling it a glorification of war. The response is that he was saving the lives of American soldiers—and the logical retort to that is that a better way to protect American soldiers would have been not sending them into such an ill-conceived war in the first place.

But these questions are left outside the frame here. Like all the best war movies, this is about the men in the trenches and the moral choices they face. The taut battle scenes are some of the best ever shot, cohesive and legible, even in a dust storm. Chris Kyle served four tours in Iraq and, as in The Hurt Locker, the most telling sequences occur back at home, between tours, when normal life seemed the aberration and the war real.

Bradley Cooper’s performance is a deep and austere personal best, and Eastwood’s crisp, unfussy direction shows that he remains a master at 84. Some stuff’s made up, like the rival enemy sniper, but it works cinematically—and hey, it’s a movie. (134 min)