A Gritty Clint Eastwood Blockbuster Is Crushing it On Streaming
You can't stop it!
It should be no surprise that a Clint Eastwood film is popular on streaming services. The 92-year-old icon has not only starred in many classic films, he’s directed a number as well. One of those films, 2014’s American Sniper, is currently trending on HBO Max. It has ranked as the streaming service’s second-most popular film among viewers this week, and it’s easy to see why. The film tells the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s experiences during the Iraq War, and features an incredible performance by Bradley Cooper, who earned his third acting Oscar nomination for the role.
The film would go on to be nominated for six Academy Awards in total, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, although Eastwood himself was not nominated for his direction. American Sniper won a single Oscar, for Best Achievement in Sound Editing, but the accolades are not why the film remains popular. Its unflinching look at the Iraq War, and the personal cost paid by those involved, still resonates. The ending in particular is especially poignant, as it features real-life footage from Kyle’s funeral, after he was murdered by a troubled Iraq War veteran with PTSD that he was trying to help.
American Sniper follows Chris Kyle’s life journey, beginning with him joining the Navy SEALS and meeting his future wife Taya (played by British actress Sienna Miller in the film), to his experiences during the Iraq War, where he officially became the deadliest sniper in American military history, based on his 160 confirmed kills. The film concludes with Kyle’s death alongside his friend and former veteran Chad Littlefield. The two were shot and killed by Eddie Ray Routh, also a war veteran, after they took him to a shooting range as a way to work through his PTSD. Routh claimed he was angered that the two didn’t speak with him while riding to the gun range, and he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
To capture the essence of the late Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper bulked up significantly for the role, adding 40 pounds of muscle through weightlifting and reportedly eating over 6,000 calories a day. He also trained with a real Navy SEAL sniper to capture the correct physical movement. Although Cooper never met Chris Kyle, he did speak with him on the phone weeks before his death, as development on the film was already underway. Kyle’s friends who visited the set of the film said Cooper bore a striking resemblance to Kyle.
The film is based on Kyle’s autobiography, also titled American Sniper, which recounted his experiences in the war. Although he was initially resistant to writing about his time in Iraq, he eventually did write the book, which featured his unapologetic, in-your-face opinions on the war. The book would go on to become a New York Times bestseller for 37 weeks, and was already in development to be made into a film at the time of Kyle’s death.
The book was also the subject of some controversy, as some questioned his claims and recollections in the book. He was even sued by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, after Kyle claimed that a story in the American Sniper book (in which he punched a guy criticizing Navy SEALS) was about Ventura. The lawsuit continued after Kyle’s death, and his estate was ultimately found liable on several counts. The verdict was later overturned, and his estate settled out of court.
Although Clint Eastwood is famous for being in front of the camera, the four-time Oscar winner never shows his face on screen in the film. He does appear in the film, however: in an early scene set during Kyle’s childhood, Eastwood can be seen, his back to the camera, entering a church. While most of the buzz around the movie concerned Bradley Cooper’s performance and Clint Eastwood’s directing, the film went viral in early 2015 for a very strange reason. Someone noticed that in one of American Sniper’s scenes, in which Chris is holding his infant son, Cooper is obviously holding a doll. The clip went viral on social media with the hashtag #FakeBaby. The media even reported on the scene, and once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.
Today, Taya Kyle remains active with veterans issues, and even wrote a book about her life, titled American Wife. In 2015, a section of highway in Midlothian, Texas (just south of Dallas), where the Kyles lived, was named the Chris Kyle Memorial Highway. In 2018, a stretch of highway in Odessa, Texas, where Kyle was born, was also named in his honor.