This film, directed by Clint Eastwood (coming just six months after his Jersey Boys), is the true story of Chris Kyle, largely based on his autobiography. The film, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Film, took the country by storm on opening weekend, far exceeding projections, and doing in excess of $100M, selling out many shows across the county. And judging by the size of the audience when we saw it last night, and the weak new openings, it may very well be the top film again this weekend.
Bradley Cooper received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Kyle, his third nomination in three years – Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013). The nomination was well deserved, though I’m still perplexed that David Oyelowo did not receive a nomination for his powerful portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.
We see Kyle as a young boy at the dinner table with his father, mother and younger brother. His father tells them that there are three kinds of people – sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. He wants his sons to be sheep dogs who protect the sheep. Chris would take that advice to heart.
Chris’ Dad taught him to shoot a gun early, and after killing a deer tells him that he has a gift. Chris is initially wasting his life as rodeo rider, but later joins the Navy Seals after seeing the television coverage of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
While going through training he meets Taya (Sienna Miller, who also starred in Foxcatcher, another film receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Film). Taya would become his wife.
Chris will use the gift his father told him that he had to serve his country as an expert marksman, a sniper (the sheepdog) to protect his fellow soldiers (the sheep) as the enemy (the wolves) tries to take them out over four tours in Iraq. The film follows the American soldiers as they try to take out “the Butcher”, who has his own expert sniper as his protector.
Chris is so effective as a sniper that he earned the nickname “The Legend” (and also a bounty on his head). In fact, Kyle would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, accumulating 160 confirmed kills. The scenes in Iraq are brutal as we see many of these kills clearly and graphically portrayed.
Back home, Taya is now the mother of two. But even when Kyle returns home between tours, he is not really there. The war has changed him. Taya begs him to stay home and not return to the war. They need him too, but Chris remembers what his father told him and he returns again and again as the sheep dog.
Cooper and Miller both deliver excellent performances. After seeing the film I’m surprised that Eastwood did not receive a Best Director nomination – he deserves it.
Kyle was brought up in the church and carries a Bible with him at all times, though we never see him reading it. The film shows that he and Taya had pre-marital sex, though no nudity is included. The film is appropriately rated “R” for extreme war violence and a significant amount of adult language. It will not be for everyone due to the violence and language. However, the film is worth seeing for the excellent acting performances, directing by Eastwood and the powerful and tragic real life story of Chris Kyle. The end of the film includes some real footage from Chris’ life.