In American Hustle, Bradley Cooper set his sights on corrupt politicians. In the Hangover franchise, he set his sights on nights of debauchery. In Silver Linings Playbook, he had his sights set on hooking up with Jennifer Lawrence.
But in his latest film, American Sniper, Cooper has his sights set on something other than bad guys: an Oscar.
Cooper was nominated for best actor in American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, but it might take him playing a marksman to bag his first Academy Award. Cooper is up against Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything).
Cooper is brilliant in American Sniper, a biopic based on the late Navy SEAL marksman Chris Kyle’s best-selling memoir. He commands the screen as a conventional war hero in an unconventional war in the Middle East, where he spent four tours in Iraq.
Cooper’s character is easy to like. He’s a tobacco-chewing, beer-swilling cowboy from Texas who joined the Navy after the 1998 bombings of American embassies to protect his country and kick ass.
And boy, did he kick ass.
With 160 confirmed kills, he’s the most deadly sniper in U.S. history, able to dot a sentence with a bullet from a rooftop hundreds of yards away. But Kyle isn’t a superhero who pumps his chest with every life he takes. He hates it when people call him “Legend” for his heroics in Iraq because no matter what he does, it’s never enough for him.
It’s easy for the audience to see Kyle’s insatiable desire to save every American soldier. He chooses his words carefully, letting his emotions do most of his talking.
Kyle’s war story isn’t told entirely through a scope. Eastwood puts him in plenty of battles alongside his unit on the Iraqi streets, where the cinematography makes the audience feel it’s embedded with Kyle’s unit amid gunfire and explosions.
It isn’t risky for Eastwood or screenwriter Jason Hall to bring Kyle’s book to life on the big screen. Moviegoers proved they love spending money to see an American kick the hell out of anyone wearing a turban. Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor made $149.3 worldwide ($125 domestic) off a $40 million budget in 2013. Expect American Sniper to hit similar marks at the box office.
But unlike Luttrell, Kyle won’t see his story.
He was fatally shot Feb. 2, 2013 along with a companion, Chad Littlefield, 35 of Dallas, Texas at the Rough Creek Ranch-Lodge resort shooting range in Erath County, Texas. He was trying to help a fellow Marine suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2013 — four years after Kyle was honorably discharged. Kyle’s service was held at Cowboy stadium. Eddie Ray Routh, 25, the man whom Kyle and Littlefield had reportedly taken to the gun range in an effort to help him with PTSD is awaiting trial.
Fortunately for Kyle, his legacy is secure with American Sniper, which will endure long after his death.
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 18 years experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He’s also an editor for CBSSports.com. He’s crossing his fingers the only baseball team in Baltimore that will contend for a title this summer won’t be his fantasy squad, the Catonsville Cartel. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.