Tomorrow, May 19th, 2014’s most surprising film is released to the public on DVD. “American Sniper” ended up as the United States’ highest grossing movie last year, as well as the highest earning war film of all-time (not adjusted for inflation)–with $543M brought in worldwide. It also marked the highest earning film of Clint Eastwood’s career to date.
I call the success of “American Sniper” a surprise for two reasons. First, I’d bet when the true story of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was shopped around Hollywood crickets could be heard. Iraq War? No thanks. A movie based off of a military sniper’s autobiography? Come on, give me author John Green! Secondly, seeing “American Sniper” nominated for only 6 Academy Awards–not even including Eastwood in the Best Director category. But another surprise was in store for “American Sniper”. Patriotic movie goers were flooding locations to see this film and setting new box office records. Remember “American Sniper” opened on Christmas Day in only a handful of theaters….but still set new attendance marks. By the time the wider release of “American Sniper” came on January 15th, the public could not be held back at the theater doors. Lines formed hours in advance of showings. Michael Moore opened his mouth and inserted his foot. Theater managers juggled other movies into smaller venues to get more “American Sniper” viewers in front of their largest screens. People were turned away from movie theaters on both Saturdays and Sundays the first few weeks.
By the time Oscar Night rolled around February 22nd of this year, we saw “American Sniper” director Clint Eastwood sitting in the audience amongst all of the Hollywood elites and heavy film favorites. But of the eight films nominated for Best Picture at the 87th Academy Awards, Eastwood’s “American Sniper” had already grossed more at the box office by the Oscars than all of the other 7 top movies combined. And who remembers that back in May of 2013, Steven Spielberg was first tapped to direct this heartfelt, shocking true story? In fact, after Spielberg felt his vision of Chris Kyle’s story couldn’t be made with the measly budget proposed by Warner Bros., the “Saving Private Ryan” director walked away entirely from “American Sniper”. By the time Clint Eastwood got the call asking him to direct the sharpshooter’s account, “Dirty Harry” Callahan happened to be reading Kyle’s book and only a few pages from the end. “OK”, he said. Spielberg wanted the focus of the movie to be on the terrorist sniper. Eastwood believed “American Sniper” should tell the story of Chris and Taya Kyle. And the rest is history…
Enemy forces also grew to know of Kyle’s legendary marksmanship skills and close whereabouts, witnessing their al-Qaeda in Iraq members dropping dead after each single shot from Chris’ rifle. No one, however, was more aware of Chris Kyle’s presence and four tours of duty in Iraq than his wife, Taya Kyle, left behind. It’s that marriage and relationship between Chris and Taya Kyle that “American Sniper” steadies upon, takes aim at, and, ultimately scores a direct hit for viewers…
Eastwood has kept faith with Kyle’s bestselling autobiography by the same name and put together an exceptional tribute to Chris Kyle the husband, father, son, teammate and patriotic American. It does not feel like a U.S. Navy recruiting film, a la 1986’s “Top Gun”. Instead, it graphically illustrates the repeated hardships and sacrifices mustered by our U.S. military and their families in defense of our country.
The genuineness of Kyle is always found in (Bradley) Cooper’s eyes—whether he’s beaming with joy, attempting to control his anger, or staring through a rifle’s scope. Perfectly complimenting Cooper’s potent character is the Taya Kyle role of devoted military wife and mother—effortlessly played by Sienna Miller.
“American Sniper” will squarely hit civilians in the heart and mind about the sacrifices made by so few, for so many, and for so long. With less than one-half of 1% of the American population wearing the U.S. military uniform, this film offers a snippet into the dangers of those charged with answering our nation’s call.
The film acknowledges and honors the sacrifices of a special American who was charged with executing the last 2,100 yards of our national security policy. It also responsibly and realistically portrays the extremely difficult challenges, hardships and loneliness faced by military families of deployed loved ones. While “American Sniper” offers moviegoers the most pulse-racing, intense urban combat operations since 2001’s “Black Hawk Down”, it has no rival in comparisons to highlighting the burdens assumed and carried by our military families. It also takes great care to explain and help Americans understand the emotional toll that war takes upon our warriors– particularly special operators we’re extremely fortunate to have in our nation’s arsenal and their families supporting them and us. The Damn Few.
You can read my entire review here – ‘American Sniper’ hits emotional mark.
“American Sniper” is available on DVD tomorrow.
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