American Sniper has a real shot at an Oscar. It has already been winning the votes of many moviegoers as the estimated box office sales are upwards of $33 million since its release. The movie has been nominated for six awards on Oscar night but it is the acclaimed best picture award that most people have their eyes set on.
Keeping American Sniper company in the category of best picture are Birdman, Boyhood, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Selma, and The Imitation Game. It is a well established fact in the industry that dramas are most often, if not always the genre to take away this coveted award. This year nominees prove not only is there a true preference for dramas but biopics, movies based on true life events and people, are held especially Oscar-worthy.
That is not the sole reason American Sniper has a real shot at an Oscar this year. The other nominees are all significant in their own right and each hold a message worth hearing. It is the truth and palpable realness that American Sniper and fellow nominee Selma are based on which have resonating parallels to what is currently taking place in American communities or to American soldiers and their families.
American Sniper, navigated by Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper, who both brought to life the story of a Navy SEAL in a manner that quickly has the audience invest themselves emotionally. A story that is based on the autobiography of Chris Kyle who retells his journey not only through four tours in Iraq but the journey he struggled with every time he came home. Chris, who was a sniper, was given the name ‘legend’ by his fellow SEALS for his rise to fame of being one of the best snipers in U.S. military history, with 160 confirmed kills.
It is not only the war, the action or the shoot outs that made this movie a contender. It is the finesse with which American Sniper portrayed the tension, stress, duress, and heart dropping moments American soldiers face in combat. It is the impeccable timing that just when the viewer needed a break to catch their breath, it brought them to scenes more familiar, those on U.S. soil. Those scenes then also took on new meaning. What most people take for granted, such as running errands, changing a tire, having a barbecue were shown to be very unnatural and emotionally difficult to connect with for those who sacrifice so much and spend more time abroad fighting than at home, enjoying what they are fighting for.
Bradley Cooper, having put on some weight for this role, commanded the screen and provided the viewer an opportunity to meet Chris Kyle who was known as charismatic, skilled, loyal, a fighter, but most importantly a human. He was a father, a husband, a brother and a son. There was no instance in American Sniper that allowed anyone watching to forget that these two parts of him went hand in hand. It was that battle in Iraq and within him that separates this from many war movies made in the past. It did not focus just on the fight and it did not focus just on the aftermath. Being an American Sniper was what he did, it was a great part of who he was but it was not all of him. He had to fight not only on the battlefield but he had to fight to find his way home, to be really home.
To be present wholly is not automatic, no matter how soldiers return home. Whether they are physically wounded or not, they have struggles that most who do not experience their reality could never fully comprehend. There is a line in American Sniper where Chris Kyle expresses how people are just living their lives, going to the malls and while there is a war going on that no one speaks of, as if it was not even happening.
This movie does not leave Chris Kyle’s family without a voice either. For every soldier there is a family praying, longing and counting the days for their safe return. It is they who spend the hours watching them rehabilitate physically from an injury or mentally and emotionally as they adjust to being home. They help pick up the pieces.
Taya, Chris Kyle’s wife, portrayed by Sienna Miller, had to do just that. Not only was this the case after each of the four tours he took but after he had published his autobiography in 2012 and was working on the screenplay adaptation with Bradley Cooper he was killed at a Texas gun range.
The capital murder trial for Eddie Ray Routh, the man accused for killing Chris and his friend Chad Littlefield, a fellow veteran, is set to begin this year. When Chris was killed as the movie adaptation had begun, she took her role as a soldiers’ wife once again. In the midst of her mourning she knew that finishing the movie would give her husband and what he believed in wholeheartedly a voice.
The importance of not staying silent about the real men and women and their service, sacrifice and struggles is why American Sniper has a real shot at an Oscar. American citizens should not allow the political rhetoric of whether this war is right, wrong or on the wrong path numb them to that reality. The fact remains that whether political actions taken are agreed upon or not, those are American soldiers that place it all on the line and deserve to not be forgotten, dismissed or their service taken for granted.
Opinion By Clea Tucker
Image Courtesy of Les Stockton – Flickr license