Nominations: Picture, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing
There’s been a great deal of talk recently from a great many famous individuals about how American Sniper is a self-aggrandizing, homicide-reveling piece of holier-than-thou capitalist propaganda. Let it be said: anyone who has said this didn’t actually bother to sit down and watch the film objectively but rather let the more unsavory elements of the movie play to whatever preformed argument against military and government they already had. American Sniper has no political agenda – in fact, it is so distanced from any discernable feelings on the matter of modern warfare it can’t even really be called a “war” movie, least of all one that glorifies violence. Based on the book by the same name and written by the eponymous character, real-life sharpshooter Chris Kyle (played in the film by a remarkably beefed up Bradley Cooper), Sniper tells the story of a dedicated soldier and family man during his training and subsequent tours of duty in the Middle East.
Following one of the most nail-biting prologues in recent memory, we first meet Chris as a young boy growing up in Texas under the staunch always-finish-the-fight morality of his father. As young man, Chris lives as an amateur rodeo star until one evening when he sees bombings of American embassies on TV and decides to join the Navy SEALs and eventually becomes a sniper over in Iraq. The audience follows him on duty as well as meeting his wife and becoming a father and eventually coping with the weight of being such a prolific killer and having lost so many comrades in battle. The movie is simply about a man – who is steadfast, rigid, and fiercely loyal – and the defining moments of his life as a human being… his being a soldier is just happenstance.
The straightforward and unencumbered nature of Jason Hall’s screenplay is perfectly suited to the reliably purposeful and simple directing style of Clint Eastwood. It’s a goal of any writer to have the ability to say a great deal without actually saying anything – a perfect example, and one of the film’s most pivotal moments, shows Chris’s conscience and sense of duty roiling as he sets his scope on a child aiming an RPG at an American convoy – and it is this ability that earned Hall his nomination for Adapted Screenplay. But the true center of Sniper, and the reason for all of the movie’s other major nominations, is Bradley Cooper in his most powerful performance to date. Putting aside his usual omnipresent sense of acting craft, Cooper plays Kyle as regular, self-aware man instead of a hyper-intricate character piece. Its adaptability like that that makes an actor memorable and hopefully the recognition he’s received for this role will help Cooper remember that – he won’t win Best Actor this year, but if he can continue to prove himself as a chameleon then there will be surefire Oscar gold in the near future.