Clint Eastwood's American Sniper has potentially generated more buzz than any film could hope to this year, and it's only the middle of January. The film has picked up 6 Academy Award nominations and shattered previous January box office numbers, raking in close to $90 million in its opening weekend. As with most war films, American Sniper is not without its controversy. Some view the film as the depiction of an American hero, others beg to differ. Regardless, I do not think anyone can argue that American Sniper is a commercial success.
American Sniper is based off of the memoirs of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), widely regarded as the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history. The film is focused primarily on Kyle's life over the course of his service in the Iraq War, as it bounces back and forth from the war to his time at home in between tours, similar to 2008's Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker.
Anyone familiar with Clint Eastwood's directorial efforts should know that it goes without saying that American Sniper is competently shot and acted. Eastwood has a penchant for bringing any scene to life, whether it be a dramatic war sequence or an intimate moment among characters. The battle sequences are done in a similar vein as The Hurt Locker in that they highlight the mental anxiety and anticipation of a war situation just as much as the battle itself. Not much time is spent on the other SEALs, but the audience is given no choice but to empathize with Chris Kyle throughout the entire film. The scenes between Kyle and his wife (Sienna Miller) are particularly worthy of acclaim.
While I don't see him winning the Academy Award that the film garnered him a nomination for, Bradley Cooper is the backbone of American Sniper and this is easily his best performance to date. It is gripping and sometimes painful to watch as he portrays so well the deterioration of Kyle's mental state as the war takes its toll on him. Sienna Miller also stands out as Kyle's wife who was never very supportive of the war to begin with, creating even more cognitive dissonance.
American Sniper is certainly not the best film in its genre, but it could be better served as a biopic. Eastwood accomplishes just about all he set out to do, but I feel like the film missed a few chances for poignancy that could have really bolstered it. Still, American Sniper is a film worth seeing regardless of political leanings.