ⓘ American Sniper

American Sniper

ⓘ American Sniper

American Sniper is a 2014 American biographical war drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall. It is loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. The film follows the life of Kyle, who became the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 255 kills from four tours in the Iraq War, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. While Kyle was celebrated for his military successes, his tours of duty took a heavy toll on his personal and family life. The film was produced by Eastwood, Robert Lorenz, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper, and Peter Morgan. It stars Cooper as Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife Taya, with Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict, Kevin Lacz, Navid Negahban, and Keir ODonnell in supporting roles.

The world premiere was on November 11, 2014, at the American Film Institute Festival, followed by a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 25, 2014, and a wide release on January 16, 2015. The film became a major success, with a worldwide gross of over $547 million, making it the highest-grossing film of 2014 in the United States $350 million, the highest-grossing war film of all time unadjusted for inflation, and Eastwoods highest-grossing film to date.

The film received mostly positive reviews, with praise for towards Coopers lead performance and Eastwoods direction, although it attracted some controversy over its portrayal of both the War in Iraq and Chris Kyle. At the 87th Academy Awards, American Sniper received six nominations, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Cooper, ultimately winning one award for Best Sound Editing.


1. Plot

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle is taught by his father how to shoot a rifle and hunt deer. Years later, Kyle has become a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy, and returns home early, to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. After telling her to leave, he is mulling it over with his brother when he sees news coverage of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and decides to enlist in the Navy. He qualifies for special training and becomes a U.S. Navy SEALs sniper.

Kyle meets Taya Studebaker at a bar, and the two soon marry. He is sent to Iraq after the September 11 attacks. His first kills are a woman and boy who attacked U.S. Marines with a Russian made RKG-3 anti-tank grenade. Kyle is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname "Legend" for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Kyle interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to "The Butcher", al-Zarqawis second-in-command. The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son, killing them while Kyle is pinned down by a sniper. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Kyle.

Kyle returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences and by Tayas concern for them as a couple – she wishes he would focus on his home and family.

Kyle leaves for a second tour and is promoted to Chief Petty Officer. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home to a newborn daughter, Kyle becomes increasingly distant from his family. On Kyles third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, Ryan "Biggles" Job, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL, Marc Lee, is killed by gunfire.

Guilt compels Kyle to undertake a fourth tour, and Taya tells him that she may not be there when he returns. Back in Iraq, Kyle is shocked to learn that Biggles died in surgery to repair the wounds he sustained. Assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Kyles sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Kyle spots Mustafa and takes him out with a risky long distance shot at 2.100 yards 1.920 m, but this exposes his teams position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the gunfight, and low on ammunition, Kyle tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Kyle is injured and almost left behind.

After Kyle gets back, on edge and unable to adjust fully to civilian life, he is asked by a Veterans Affairs psychiatrist if he is haunted by all the things he did in war. When he replies that it is "all the guys couldnt save" that haunt him, the psychiatrist encourages him to help severely wounded veterans in the VA hospital. After that, Kyle gradually begins to adjust to home life.

Years later, on February 2, 2013, Kyle says goodbye to his wife and family as he leaves in good spirits to spend time with a veteran at a shooting range. An on-screen subtitle reveals: "Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help", followed by archive footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession. More are shown attending his memorial service.


2. Production

On May 24, 2012, it was announced that Warner Bros. WB had acquired the rights to the book with Bradley Cooper set to produce and star in the screen adaptation. Cooper had thought of Chris Pratt to play Kyle, but WB agreed to buy it only if Cooper would star. In September 2012, David O. Russell said he was interested in directing the film. On February 2, 2013, Chris Kyle was murdered. On May 2, 2013, it was announced that Steven Spielberg would direct. Spielberg had read Kyles book, though he desired to have a more psychological conflict present in the screenplay so an "enemy sniper" character could serve as the insurgent sharpshooter who was trying to track down and kill Kyle. Spielbergs ideas contributed to the development of a lengthy screenplay approaching 160 pages. Due to WBs budget constraints, Spielberg felt he could not bring his vision of the story to the screen. On August 5, 2013, Spielberg dropped out of directing. On August 21, 2013, it was reported that Clint Eastwood would instead direct the film.


2.1. Production Casting

On March 14, 2014, Sienna Miller joined the cast. On March 16, 2014, Kyle Gallner was cast, was Cory Hardrict on March 18, 2014. On March 20, 2014, Navid Negahban, Eric Close, Eric Ladin, Rey Gallegos, and Jake McDorman also joined the cast, as did Luke Grimes and Sam Jaeger on March 25, 2014. Kevin Lacz, a former Navy SEAL, was also cast and served as a technical advisor. Another former Navy SEAL, Joel Lambert, also joined the film, portraying a Delta sniper. On June 3, Max Charles was added to the cast to portray Kyles son, Colton Kyle.


2.2. Production Filming

Principal photography began on March 31, 2014 in Los Angeles; it was also shot in Morocco. On April 23, the Los Angeles Times reported that ten days of filming set in an Afghan village was set to begin at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in the Santa Clarita area. On May 7, shooting of the film was spotted around El Centro; a milk factory was used as the abandoned date factory which insurgents close in on from all directions at the climax of the film. Later on May 14, Cooper was spotted filming some scenes in Culver City, California, and then he followed by shooting scenes again in Los Angeles on May 16. On May 30, Cooper and Miller were spotted during the filming of their characters wedding scenes; they were filming aboard a yacht in Marina del Rey. On June 3, Cooper was spotted in the uniform of a Navy SEAL marksman aiming during the filming of some scenes at a Los Angeles shooting range. The pier and bar scenes were filmed in Seal Beach, California.

Cinematographer Tom Stern shot the film with Arri Alexa XT digital cameras and Panavision C-, E- and G-Series anamorphic lenses. The film is Eastwoods second to be shot digitally, after Jersey Boys.


2.3. Production Music

There is no "Music by" credit on this film. Clint Eastwood, who has composed the scores for most of his films since Mystic River 2003, is credited as the composer of "Tayas Theme". Joseph S. DeBeasi is credited as composer of additional music and as music editor. The film also features the song "Someone Like You" by Van Morrison, which plays during the wedding scene, and "The Funeral" by Ennio Morricone.


3.1. Reception Box office

American Sniper grossed $350.1 million in North America and $197 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $547.1 million, against a budget of around $58 million. Calculating in all expenses and revenues, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of $243 million, making it the second-most profitable film of 2014 only behind Paramounts Transformers: Age of Extinction. Worldwide, it is the highest-grossing war film of all time breaking Saving Private Ryan s record and Eastwoods highest-grossing film to date. It is the seventh R-rated film to gross over $500 million.


3.2. Reception North America

In North America, it is the highest-grossing film of 2014, the highest-grossing war film unadjusted for inflation, the third-highest-grossing R-rated film of all time behind The Passion of the Christ and Deadpool, Warner Bros. fourth-highest-grossing film behind The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, and the eighth-highest-grossing Best Picture nominee film. It became the seventh Warner Bros. film to earn over $300 million in the U.S. and Canada and the 50th film to reach the mark. It earned as much as the combined earnings of all of the other 2014 Best Picture nominees. On March 8, 2015, it surpassed The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 to become the highest-grossing film of 2014, making it the first R-rated film since Saving Private Ryan 1998 and the first non-franchise film since Avatar 2009 to top the year-end rankings.

American Sniper premiered at the AFI Fest on November 11, 2014, just after a screening of Selma at Graumans Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles. In North America, the film opened to a limited release on December 25, 2014, playing at four theaters - two in New York, one in Los Angeles, and one in Dallas - and earned $610.000 in its opening weekend $850.000 including Christmas Day at an average of $152.500 per venue debuting at #22. The following week the film earned $676.909 playing at the same number of locations at an average of $169.277 per theater, which is the second-biggest weekend average ever for a live-action movie previously held by 2001s Moulin Rouge!. American Sniper holds the record for the most entries in the top 20 Top Weekend Theater Averages with 3 entries at #12, #14 and #17. It earned a total of $3.4 million from limited release in three weekends.

The film began its wide debut across North American theaters on January 16, 2015 Thursday night showings began at 7:00 pm. It set an all-time-highest Thursday night opening record for an R-rated drama with $5.3 million previously held by Lone Survivor. The film topped the box office on its opening day grossing $30.5 million including Thursday previews from 3.555 theaters setting January records for both biggest debut opening previously held by Cloverfield and single-day gross previously held by Avatar. In its traditional three-day opening the film earned $89.2 million which was double than expected and broke the record for the largest January opening previously held by Ride Along and the largest winter opening, which is also Eastwoods top opening as a director breaking Gran Torino s opening. The three-day opening is also the biggest opening weekend for a drama film previously held by The Passion of the Christ, the second-biggest debut for a Best Picture Oscar nominee behind Toy Story 3, the second-biggest debut for an R-rated film behind The Matrix Reloaded, and the third-biggest for a non-comic book, non-fantasy/sci-fi film behind Furious 7 and Fast & Furious 6. It also set an IMAX January opening and single weekend record with $10.6 million previously held by Avatar in its fourth weekend and an R-rated IMAX debut record previously held by Prometheus. It earned $107.2 million during its four-day Martin Luther King weekend setting a record for the biggest R-rated four-day gross.

In its second weekend, the film expanded to 3.705 theaters making it the second-widest launch for an R-rated movie behind the film itself. It grossed an estimated $64.6 million in its second weekend, declining only by 28% - and set the record for the second-best hold ever for a movie opening to more than $85 million and also set the record for the eighth-largest second-weekend gross. In just 10 days of release, the film surpassed Pearl Harbor $198.5 million to become the second-highest-grossing war film in North America. By its second weekend, Box Office Mojo had already reported that the film was on poise to become the highest-grossing film of 2014 in North America, a record that was, at the time held by The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 $334 million, judging from its gradual decline and strong holdovers. It became the highest-grossing IMAX film of January grossing $18.8 million from 333 IMAX theaters. On Thursday, January 29, 2015–35 days after its initial release, the film surpassed Saving Private Ryan $216.5 million to become the highest-grossing war film in North America, unadjusted for inflation.

By its third weekend of wide release, the film expanded to 3.885 theaters 180 additional theaters added, breaking its own record of being the widest R-rated film ever released. The film topped the box office through its third weekend earning $30.66 million, which is the second-highest Super Bowl weekend gross behind Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert. After topping the box office for three consecutive weekends, the film was overtaken by The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water in its fourth weekend.


3.3. Reception Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 72%, based on 289 reviews, with an average rating of 6.89/10. The websites critical consensus states, "Powered by Clint Eastwoods sure-handed direction and a gripping central performance from Bradley Cooper, American Sniper delivers a tense, vivid tribute to its real-life subject." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 48 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, audiences gave American Sniper a rare grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale.

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "A taut, vivid and sad account of the brief life of the most accomplished marksman in American military annals." Justin Chang of Variety gave the film a positive review, saying ".an excellent performance from a bulked-up Bradley Cooper, this harrowing and intimate character study offers fairly blunt insights into the physical and psychological toll exacted on the front lines." David Denby of The New Yorker gave the film a positive review, saying "Both a devastating war movie and a devastating antiwar movie, a subdued celebration of a warriors skill and a sorrowful lament over his alienation and misery." Keith Phipps of The Dissolve wrote that the film, while well made, missed a chance to explore the toll that such service exacts on soldiers. Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+, saying "The films just a repetition of context-free combat missions and one-dimensional targets." Elizabeth Weitzman of New York Daily News gave the film four out of five stars, saying "The best movies are ever-shifting, intelligent and open-hearted enough to expand alongside an audience. American Sniper Gimme the doll, kid."


3.4. Reception Top ten lists

American Sniper was listed on many critics top ten lists.


3.5. Reception Home media

American Sniper was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 19, 2015.

Upon its first week of release on home media in the U.S., the film topped both the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks overall disc sales, as well as the Blu-ray Disc sales chart in the week ending May 24, 2015.

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