Bradley Cooper in American Sniper (2014)

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Bradley Cooper received his third consecutive Oscar nomination for his performance as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.

I just realised that 4 out of 5 of the best actor nominees are portrayals of real life people. Yes, I know I’m super slow, and this just proves how disinterested I am in this lineup. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Michael Keaton had this against him, since the Academy clearly loves these kind of performances. Pity.

I happen to like American Sniper, despite the whole controversy surrounding it. War films are bound to be divisive because of the subject matter and its relevance. I try to be as objective as I can, even when it is apparent to me that the film is one-sided. I agree that the screenplay is standard, and some of the lines can really make your eyes roll, but Clint Eastwood’s direction really elevates it to another level (plastic baby and all). He’s not my favourite director but I’ve always liked his movies and his style. He can turn the corniest screenplay into watchable entertainment (*coughs* Million Dollar Baby *coughs*) and I think he really handled the story very well. In fact, some moments were so chilling and disturbing that I felt my skin crawl – I guess you can say I was successfully “manipulated”, but still, I thought it was a good effort overall.

I used to find Bradley Cooper a bit overrated, but I think in recent years he has proven himself to be more than capable as an actor. I disliked his American Hustle performance, and sometimes I think he can go way overboard with the neurotic guy shtick, but over here it’s different. We get to see a quieter side of Cooper, and it strangely enough, it works.

The way Chris Kyle is written in this movie is a rather stereotypical, but one thing that is apparent to me is how passionate Cooper is for this story. The thing could have been really one note – cowboy signs up for army, is an excellent shooter and subsequently suffers from PTSD. Cooper really analyzed every detail of Chris Kyle’s life, and in turn, he went above the screenplay by giving a pretty fascinating portrayal of a flawed man who is viewed as a legend.

I liked how Cooper went to portray Kyle’s gradual mental deterioration – it was realistically handled, and I could see a man who was ravaged with guilt over the lives he couldn’t save. Like I said, the whole thing could have come off as cliche, especially with the handling of Kyle’s patriotism, but Cooper never fell into that trap. I found myself emotionally invested in the character – there were a lot of times where I found myself a bit disturbed by how Kyle was so nonchalant about what he does. There was a scene where Kyle was accused of having a savior complex, and I liked how Cooper introduced this bit of mystery inside his performance. There were times I felt as though Kyle actually enjoyed killing, and it was not just patriotism as he always claimed.

Cooper also effectively portrays his relationship struggles with his families. There were some very sad scenes where he couldn’t reconnect with his wife that I thought Cooper really nailed. I also thought the interactions with his children were really sweet and tender, displaying another side of Kyle you wouldn’t expect.

Overall, I think this is a commendable effort by Bradley Cooper. I think he went above the limits of American Sniper’s screenplay to give a complex and haunting portrayal. A great performance! 4.5/5

The film: 4/5.

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One comment

  1. A lot of people like this one. I just found the entire film + performance to be a underwhelming. Thinking a rewatch might help my feelings towards it

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