Don't look to Clint Eastwood's new film for perspective on, or political insight into, the Iraq War. Iraqi insurgents are characterised by US soldiers as "savages," Fallujah is referred to as "the new Wild West of the old Middle East," a place where even the dirt tastes like "dogshit," and the film makes little attempt to consider the suffering of the Iraqi people.
This is a biopic. Eastwood's focus is on his main character, the Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a patriot from Texas who assumed legendary status during his four tours of Iraq. As a sniper, he had 164 confirmed "kills" and the insurgents placed a bounty on his head. Kyle doesn't question why the US is in Iraq but sees himself as a "protector" of his colleagues, his country and his family, and seemingly in that order.
As simple-minded as it is in its treatment of US military misadventure in the Middle East, American Sniper offers a rich and complex study of its central character, brilliantly played by a very beefed-up Cooper. He has some of the quality of the Sergeant York-like everyman. "It's a heck of a thing to stop a beating heart," we hear him reflect in a folksy drawl as he describes the process of killing.
There are frequent flashbacks. We see him in his childhood, when he first showed his marksmanship while out hunting with his father, an arch patriot who divided the world into sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. (Kyle, of course, is the sheepdog type.) The film also deals movingly with his family life, his marriage to Taya (an impressively steely Sienna Miller) and the way that his horrific experiences in Iraq warp his personality. He is a decent man fighting his demons.
Like Eastwood's gunman in Unforgiven, Kyle has killed just about everything that walks or crawls, including women and children, and yet shows huge tenderness to former soldiers, maimed and suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Oscars 2015 nominations
Oscars 2015 nominations
1/28 Birdman - 10 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
2/28 The Grand Budapest Hotel - 10 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Director (Wes Anderson), Best Picture, Film Editing, Production Design, for Makeup and Hairstyling, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Screenplay, Original Score
3/28 The Imitation Game - 8 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Supporting Actor ( Keira Knightley) Best Director (Morten Tyldum), Film Editing, Production Design, Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
4/28 American Sniper - 6 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Bradley Cooper), Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
5/28 Boyhood - 6 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Actress in Supporting role (Patricia Arquette) Film Editing, Best Director (Richard Linklater), Original Screenplay
6/28 Whiplash - 5 nominations
Academy Award nominated for Best Picture, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
7/28 The Theory of Everything - 5 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne), Best Actress (Felicity Jones), Adapted Screenplay, Original Score
Working Title Films
8/28 Foxcatcher - 5 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Director (Bennett Miller), Best Actor (Steve Carrell), Original Screenplay, Makeup and Hairstyling
9/28 Selma - 2 nominations
Oscar nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Song
10/28 Mr Turner
Oscar nominated for Production Design, Costume Design, Cinematography, Original Score
Reese Witherspoon is Oscar-nominated for best actress in a leading role and Laura Dern is nominated for best supporting actress
12/28 Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard has been nominated in the best actress category
Oscar nominated for Original Screenplay
14/28 Gone Girl
Rosamund Pike is Oscar nominated for best actress in a leading role
Twentieth Century Fox
Nominated for Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Original Score
16/28 Still Alice
Best actress in a leading role nomination for Julianne Moore
17/28 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
Oscar nominated for Sound Editing
18/28 Into The Woods
Oscar nominated for Production Design, Costume Design, Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)
19/28 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Robert Redford and Chris Evans film is nominated for Special Effects
20/28 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Nominated for an Oscar in the Visual Effects category
20th Century Fox
21/28 The Lego Movie
Oscar nominated for best song 'Everything Is Awesome' but snubbed in best animation category
22/28 X-Men, Days of the Future Past
Oscar nominated in the Visual Effects category
Alan Markfield / 2013 Marvel & Subs / 20th Century Fox Film Corp.
23/28 Begin Again
Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in Begin Again which is Oscar nominated for best original song
24/28 Guardians Of The Galaxy
Nominated for Visual Effects, for Makeup and Hairstyling
Oscar nominated for Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Cinematography
26/28 How To Train Your Dragon 2
Oscar nominated for Animated Feature Film
Oscar nominated for Costume Design
© Disney Enterprises, Inc.
28/28 Inherent Vice
Oscar nominated for Adapted Screenplay
Eastwood deals with the action scenes in bravura fashion. In particular, there is a rooftop duel between Kyle and a crackshot Iraqi sniper that recalls the battle of Stalingrad rivalry between Soviet soldier Zaitzev and the aristocratic German sniper Major Konings in An Enemy at the Gates. In spite of its utter failure to engage with the politics behind the war, the film goes beyond simple hagiography of an all-American hero.
American Sniper is not afraid to show Kyle's dark side and the contradictions in his personality – and that is why it has such resonance.Reuse content