It was ten years ago that director Clint Eastwood dropped a bomb on the Oscar season at the very last minute, stealing all the thunder from the other contenders and paving the way to victorious Best Picture and Best Director wins. That film was, of course, Million Dollar Baby, which, barring Letters from Iwo Jima two years later, was Eastwood’s last big awards season success. Ever since, the director has floundered with films like Gran Torino (however briefly it looked set to reap the benefits of Eastwood’s late-reveal strategy), Hereafter, J. Edgar, and this past spring’s commercial and critical flop, Jersey Boys.
He’ll be looking to turn that all around with American Sniper, which released its first trailer yesterday. Starring Bradley Cooper, the film is based on the autobiographical memoir of United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, renowned as one of the most lethal snipers in American military history, as he makes his way through four grueling tours of duty in Iraq. Upon returning home, he finds himself unable to extinguish the psychological grip of war, whose toll exerts itself in increasingly virulent ways on him and his family.
The trailer, which rather powerfully juxtaposes Kyle’s mission in Iraq with scenes of escalating tension back home, is a tersely crafted bit of suspense, structured less like a conventional trailer and more like a scene taken from the film itself. I’m particularly impressed with its leeriness in regards to the war, as we see Kyle weighing his morals as he nervously trains his crosshairs on a woman and child. Despite the director’s conservatism, there’s clearly no gung-ho patriotism to be seen here, which hopefully foretells a film in the same territory as his measured and shrewd examination of violence in 1992’s Unforgiven.
Take a look at the trailer above and let us know what you think. Do you still have faith in Clint Eastwood? Is this just more of the same, or a return to form? Can it take over the Oscar season in a way similar to Million Dollar Baby in 2004?
American Sniper will be released by Warner Bros. on December 25.