Everyone wants to love Clint Eastwood's movies. But after winning Best Director and Best Picture for 2004's “Million Dollar Baby,” the actor-turned-director's self-seriousness has left his recent output feeling a little… dry. Sounding great on paper, “Flags of Our Fathers” “Invictus,” “J. Edgar” didn't have the cinematic brawn to muscle Eastwood into the award season (though, it should be noted, that his riveting, un-Hollywood war movie “Letters from Iwo Jima” nabbed a Best Picture nomination). Will “American Sniper” be the one voters and critical voices finally get behind?
Star Bradley Cooper hopes so. A passion project for the actor, Cooper dedicated himself to obtaining and developing the life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle's story, one of the deadliest snipers in modern history. Originally set up as directing vehicle for Steven Spielberg, Eastwood boarded the project in Aug. 2013. Now we have the first look at the film and it's an immediate change of pace from Eastwood's recent lethargy. Juxtaposing a sniping operation with Kyle's life back home, the first look may require antiarrhythmic meds, for those with easily manipulated heart rates.
Jason Dean Hall (2013's “Paranoia”) adapted “American Sniper” from Kyle's autobiography of the same name. In the book, the sailor details his time in the service, including 4 tours as a Navy SEAL in the latest Iraq war. His record shows 160 confirmed (out of 255 claimed) kills during his time as a sniper.
Cooper told USA Today that he only had one opportunity to speak to Kyle, a brief phone conversation where the actor promised to do everything he could to tell this story faithfully, before the Navy SEAL was murdered by a troubled Marine veteran while practicing at a Texas shooting range. The shocking turn of events added pressurized the already delicate adaptation. “I had to do right by him and his family, there was really no choice,” Cooper told the paper. “You're sitting across the dining-room table talking to this person's father and mother. And his children and wife are there. And he's passed away. Knowing that they are putting all of their stories in your hands and the responsibly of that, it's actually unique.”
As evidenced in the trailer, Cooper's doing his part to realistically portray the fallen soldier. According to the same interview, the actor put on 40 pounds and trained with the same Navy SEALs who worked with Kyle, including Kevin “Dauber” Lacz, Kyle's sniper partner during his last two tours (he also served as a technical adviser and portrays himself in the movie).
“American Sniper” opens in limited release Dec. 25 before expanding on Jan. 16.