And last but not least on our Oscar Countdown, we focus on the latest film from legendary actor/director Clint Eastwood: American Sniper. The story focuses on Chris Kyle, an American Navy Seal who served four tours in Iraq before being tragically killed on American soil. During his time over in Iraq, Kyle earned the reputation of being the most deadly sniper in American history with over 160 kills to his credit. But the drama extends beyond the battle fields of Iraq, as Kyle is also a family man who just cannot seem to leave the war behind and focus on the loved ones in his life that desperately need him.
Chris Kyle was a man who wanted to serve his country. He was a good ol’ boy from Texas who was taught from an early age to always protect himself and his loved ones from the dangers of this world. It was inevitable that this man would join the armed forces, and after the terrible events of 9/11, it was also inevitable that he would go in whichever direction that his country pointed him in order to root out the enemy. This is a film about a man who is a product of his environment and his training. He did not ask for the conflict that he would eventually become involved in, but he became embroiled in it just the same. Chris Kyle spent the better part of a thousand days in Iraq and was a witness and participant to things that we can only imagine. His kill record alone sends a pretty clear signal that this is a man who has a perspective on the world that is not shared by many people. Was he a good man or a bad man? Well, it’s not my job to pass that kind of judgement, and neither is it the movie’s job. Like any good movie, American Sniper allows you to view the many different perspectives that surround a subject which is not easily definable or categorized. When a film attempts to explore a complicated issue, the biggest disservice it can do is present it in a “black or white” type of way. But as with many of the films nominated this year, American Sniper shines a light on certain attitudes, thoughts, and issues in a way that is akin to viewing the world through a prism. The long and short of it is that it’s not a simple story with a simple answer.
As with any given Oscar Race, you have a series of films that are fueled by actors and actresses that are able to take already compelling material and raise them to heights of entertainment and poignancy that might not have been imagined in the early stages of the film's production. Bradley Cooper joins a highly respected group of actors who are being heralded for their great work, and his presence among them is highly warranted. You honestly forget that you are watching Bradley Cooper when you see this film. It’s a flawless performance that brings to life a very complicated man who spent so much of his life fighting for what he thought was the right to live a free life that he nearly forgot to live that life when he had the opportunity to do so.
In just a few days, American Sniper joins 7 other films in a race for the honor of being declared the Best Picture of 2014. It’s a tough competition with an eventual outcome that will be debated by cinephiles for some time to come. A celebration of film and what it’s capable of is on the horizon, so if you haven’t seen American Sniper and it’s fellow nominees, then do so soon and let us know what you think. And remember to tune in to The Academy Awards on Sunday, February 22!