By Bill Dudley

Any film that opens in January usually does so because of the lack of confidence by the studio that released it.

Several studios turned down this project for various reasons:
(1) Another violent war movie wouldn’t sell
(2) The hero had killed at least 160 people
(3) Is it a true account, or the deranged memory of a man trained to be a killing machine?

All of this aside, the film did finally get made in 2014, with the biggest January opening in film history ($105 million). It now stands at over $200 after two weeks.

There must be a reason this film touches so many people. The script comes from a man who knew both the sniper, and his wife very well. Screenwriter Jason Hall makes his home at Lake Arrowhead with his own wife and three young children.

Hall was skeptical of some the stories when he first met 4 time Iraq veteran Chris Kyle, whom the film is based on. Hall spent several years researching Kyle before his untimely (non-battlefield) death in 2014. Hall also spent much time speaking with Kyle’s wife after his death, to piece together the whole story.

American Sniper is the story of a man addicted to battle, and the woman who doesn’t understand his addiction. Bradley Cooper is at his very best as the lead in American Sniper, actually becoming Chris Kyle. Sienna Miller is a standout as his wife Taya.

American Sniper was to be directed by Stephen Spielberg who is not primarily known for war films, but did a great job with Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, and Schindler’s List. Spielberg bowed out as he thought he needed far more than $60 million to tell the story right.

Enter Clint Eastwood, a director very used to working on fixed budgets.  The film got made within budget in just 44 days.

Clint’s acting creds go back to the late 50’s creating iconic characters such as Rowdy Yates, The Man With No Name and Dirty Harry. Clint has actually done some his best work in what are now his “Golden Years.”  Winning Best Picture for The Unforgiven, and huge accolades for Mystic River, The Bridges Of Madison County, ChangelingMillion Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.

Clint is controversial, but was the perfect person to direct “American Sniper. Yes, the film is all about war, and contains many excruciating violent scenes, but as the cliche goes “war is hell,” and so are the lives of those who fight it.

Chris Kyle is credited by the US government as the most accurate sniper in American history. Critics say this is nothing to celebrate, and we shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place. I agree with those words, but I also have compassion for the “killing machines” we create. Someone has to do it, and there is a big toll they pay to succeed.

Chris Kyle had no idea just how sick he was, suffering from PTSD after finally concluding four tours in Iraq. We send young people to war, train them to kill, and when they return home, they feel they have nothing to fight for.  Their buddies who they would give their lives up for, are far away in other places, or dead. All of a sudden, the vets have nothing to fight for.

A very hallow feeling that leads to depression. So far, America has not been able to deal with this problem, I hope seeing this film will change that. Eastwood clearly covers the pain of being a military wife and mother, he also acknowledges something that Chris Kyle couldn’t do, war changes people.

American Sniper may be the first film I’ve ever seen directed by music lover Clint Eastwood that featured NO MUSIC under the closing credits. The silence made it’s point. I won’t give away much more if you would like to see American Sniper.

It will be on my Best Films of 2014 list for one reason. It deserves it !


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