There’s been a lot of talk about what to make of the story of Chris Kyle. Yes, he made up some things in his memoir that Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” is based upon. Yes, he was murdered and he will never get a chance to tell the truth about his life as a sniper in SEAL Team 3. But if his story, the story of the man who has the most confirmed sniper kills in U.S. history, doesn’t intrigue you than you’re probably lying.
Clint Eastwood is one of Hollywood’s finest directors and it’s not just because of his name. He has the strange ability to turn any script into a compelling story. I saw his version of “Jersey Boys” last year and although I don’t really like that musical I thought he made it entertaining enough to keep my interest.
I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy “American Sniper” because of the rumors I’ve heard about Kyle. Was he a hero? Was he a liar? Should I feel for a sniper? Those are the exact questions Eastwood’s film sets out to solve. Should you call Kyle an American hero?
Personally, I think we can. It will take you until the end of the film to figure this out, but Kyle was a man that believed fighting for his country was the right thing to do. His teammates called him “Legend” and there were bounties out for him during the years he served. Needless to say he was a big deal. But from the minute the film started you knew that he didn’t like being a legend. He just wanted to help protect America. He’s a classic anti-hero. In order to serve his country he had to kill. He’s as complicated as characters come.
“American Sniper” could be seen as just another war movie. It sets itself apart from other films like it because it intertwines Kyle’s tours with his personal dilemmas, mainly that of his family. His wife, played beautifully by Sienna Miller, wants him to come home and doesn’t understand why he continues to go back to Iraq and put his life at risk. His kids miss him, which seems strange at times since they hardly know their father.
All of these elements make “American Sniper” an Eastwood masterpiece. I was engaged the entire time. It told a much fuller story than Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken.” I also commend the director for including the way Kyle met his maker and doing it in a shocking but respectful way. I won’t say too much here because you need to go and see it for yourself, but it was impressive to see in the end the film still painted Kyle as a hero despite his anti-hero persona. You don’t walk out of the theater thinking he was any less of an American hero.
Seeing all of this made me even more excited that the film got the recognition it deserved from the Academy. A Best Picture nomination was a given, but I’m mostly pleased with a nomination for Bradley Cooper for Best Actor.
I love Bradley Cooper but it’s for more reasons than you may assume. He’s pretty beautiful, yes, but he’s proven time and time again with three back to back to back Oscar nominations that he is a serious and seriously good actor. He never stood a chance with his other nominations but this year his turn as Kyle in “American Sniper” may just be enough to win him an Oscar. He gained something like 40 pounds for the role, changed his whole walk, speech, and body to play Kyle. He grew a killer beard and played his SEAL character with the same amount of compassion and strength. I recently discussed my annoyance with Oscar bait like Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and how I wished Benedict Cumberbatch was getting more recognition for “The Imitation Game,” but seeing what I’ve discovered today in “Sniper,” I know Best Actor will come down to Cooper and Redmayne.
Of course, as I fear, Redmayne will most likely be victorious in the end. The Academy has a tough choice to make. Do they vote for the sweet Redmayne for playing a brilliant scientist who never let his ALS stop him or the veteran nomination getter Cooper who plays a man that killed other men to keep his country safe.
I can see the Academy falling for Redmayne’s easier to define bait. I will keep my hopes up though that Cooper finally gets the recognition he deserves with this haunting role. Either way, Cooper did Kyle justice and helped make a film that hits home.