×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘American Sniper’ Bursts Onto the Scene as an Oscar Hotshot

A few months ago, “American Sniper” wasn’t even on the radar for the 2014 Oscar race, but at Thursday’s AFI Fest premiere screening, the film bursts onto the scene as a strong contender in across-the-board categories.

The Warner Bros. release features all the hallmarks of Clint Eastwood’s best work: terrific performances, expert below-the-line contributions, and a thoughtful script that seems to be taking the audience in one direction, then proceeds to challenge expectations and expand on its ideas.

In this case, the script is by Jason Hall based on the memoirs of Chris Kyle, whom Eastwood described in his opening remarks as “the most dangerous sniper in the history of American military.” (Eastwood also noted that the film was debuting on Veteran’s Day.) It’s a celebration of the heroism of soldiers, while providing a devastating account of the toll it takes on them.

After Oscar noms for his last two films (“Silver Linings Playbook” and “American Hustle”), Bradley Cooper continues his hot streak, with a fully-fleshed-out character that’s far removed from anything he’s done, and Sienna Miller gets maximum results in the supporting role of his wife. Cooper is in a crowded category that already has six actors competing for the five slots, but his work is so good, he can displace one of them. Miller’s race is less jam-packed, and she provides a lot of heart to what is potentially a one-dimensional role.

The film also has adrenaline and energy that most other films should envy, thanks to Eastwood’s team, including editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach; cinematographer Tom Stern, casting director Geoffrey Miclat, the groups of sound workers, stuntmen and all other artisans, who will likely be remembered in guild and Oscar voting.

The  pic was originally targeted for 2015, but Eastwood worked so fast and to such good results that the move seemed like a good idea. I think they were right. The film superficially resembles “Hurt Locker,” but brings a very different sensibility to the material. I think the overlap between the two films will be more a talking point among critics than among awards voters. Most voters will concentrate on the soldier’s attitudes and their learning curve, which is harrowing and timely.

In introducing the film, AFI president-CEO Bob Gazzale referred to Eastwood as “an American icon.” He definitely is that, but he’s also an active filmmaker creating movies that are gritty, dazzling and substantial. At 84, he’s an icon who’s still capable of surprising us.

He’s been in Oscar’s winning circle twice before, with “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.” This one is just as good as they are, so, who knows, he may be surprising us again.

 

 

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Mackenzie Davis Terminator Dark Fate

    ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending with “Terminator: Dark Fate.” Ads placed for the sci-fi action film had an estimated media value of $6.81 million through Sunday for 796 national ad airings [...]

  • Judy & Punch review

    Damon Herriman Stands Out as 'The Nightingale' and 'Lambs of God' Lead AACTA Nominations

    Dark thriller, “The Nightingale” and miniseries “Lambs of God” lead the pack at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. In nominations announced on Wednesday, they picked up 15 and 18 nods, respectively. Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” was one of six films nominated in the best film category. With others including Mirrah Foulkes’ [...]

  • Cardi B

    Cardi B Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Cardi B has joined the cast of Universal’s “Fast & Furious 9” in an undisclosed role. It’s the rapper’s first movie part since her role as the stripper Diamond in STX’s drama “Hustlers.” Vin Diesel disclosed the casting Tuesday in a post on his Instagram account with a video that showed him and Cardi B [...]

  • James Wan

    Film News Roundup: James Wan's Horror Thriller 'Malignant' Gets August Release

    In today’s film news roundup, James Wan’s “Malignant” gets a late-summer release, a Rita Hayworth documentary is shooting and Women in Animation have announced diversity awards winners. RELEASE DATE Warner Bros. has set an Aug. 14 release date for James Wan’s horror thriller “Malignant.” Wan will direct the movie, based on a story by Wan [...]

  • Michael Shannon Benedict Cumberbatch Tuppence Middleton

    How Martin Scorsese Saved 'Current War' From Harvey Weinstein

    Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon finally gets to release his version of his long-in-the-making “The Current War.” The film, about the competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, was originally set to be distributed by the Weinstein Company after Harvey Weinstein recut it, much to Gomez-Rejon’s chagrin. To make matters worse, Weinstein premiered the movie at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content