Movie: American Sniper
What it’s up for: Best Picture, Leading Actor, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Adapted Screenplay
American Sniper follows the real life story of Chris Kyle, a sniper with the US Navy SEALS who did four tours in the Iraq War. The film shows Kyle’s work overseas and his attempts to balance a life of war with his life at home. That’s probably the shortest synopsis ever but I don’t want to reveal too much for those who don’t know his story and don’t want spoilers. I found this article from USA Today quite interesting and a great addendum to the movie.
Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, but I don’t think that that is his greatest accomplishment regarding this film. Yes, he gained 40 pounds of muscle. Yes, he trained with ex-military, including a sniper who served with Kyle. But Bradley Cooper was also one of the producers and dedicated to telling Kyle’s story accurately and with respect. He was one of the original backers and sought for the best through the different stages of production the film went through. That being said, he did a fantastic job as an actor. Chris Kyle’s wife helped him with his character development and was more than pleased with the final product. That’s probably the best commendation a role like this can get. I’m realizing more and more this year that I have a subconscious bias towards actors. Not in a bad way, per say, but in that a film is made or broken for me based on the production of the film, not the acting. Very few actors WOW me. I can fully appreciate the sincere effort that Cooper put in to this character, though, and that alone makes me believe that he deserves his nomination.
The screenplay is good, but a little choppy at times as it goes back and forth between state-side life and Iraq life. It does a great job at conveying an overall heaviness to the story – like a burden they’re sharing with the audience. It opens your eyes to the difficulty of choosing to take a life in order to save a life (or multiple lives). They don’t over-glorify or idealize the military or war, which is refreshing for a “war movie”. You can tell the writers were intentional with the script. The film editing accentuates the screenplay well. It does a fantastic job of helping clarify what’s going on without making it look fake. (There was one special effects snafu that still bugs me – a missile hitting a building in the distance a little too quickly – but that’s probably not the film editor’s fault.)
Sound editing and sound mixing are crucial to war movies and are often recognized for that effort. American Sniper is no different. The team’s biggest accomplishment is during a scene where Kyle’s unit gets trapped in a firefight during a sandstorm. It is one of the most dramatic scenes of the entire movie and is made more powerful by IMAX speaker systems where you can hear the sand swirling around you as bullets fly past.
American Sniper is a character study. In that regard, it accomplishes much more than you would typically see from a war movie. It humanizes and reveals much more about a military that – to the vast majority – is often seen as a distant and somewhat fictional entity.
Best Picture – Unlikely
Leading Actor – As of now, I’d say it’s unlikely…however the Academy does love Bradley Cooper.
Adapted Screenplay – Unlikely…but that is based solely on my bias towards the Academy since I haven’t seen any of the other films in this category yet.
Film Editing – Can’t tell yet.
Sound Editing – Unlikely
Sound Mixing – More likely than sound editing but since they usually give both to the same movie (particularly in the last few years), I still think the sounds will go to one of the more fiction-y films.