Taya Kyle sees her husband’s legacy, family tale in ‘American Sniper’

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘American Sniper’: Making a box office statement.

Cooper, 40, who has been nominated for best actor Oscar for his portrayal of lethal Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, said he was initially wracked with anxiety over whether or not he could succeed in the role. “It was a life-changing experience, truthfully. “God, family, country.” After the awkward dysrhythmia of Jersey Boys (a musical with a tin ear for its tunes), Clint Eastwood is back in the saddle with this bleak western-inflected thriller.

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is riding high at the weekend box office where it has already scored $30.5 million on Friday, according to studio estimates. Adapted from the autobiography of Chris Kyle, a navy Seal (nicknamed “the Legend” – really) who racked up more than 160 confirmed kills as a marksman in Iraq, American Sniper finds Eastwood returning once again to Unforgiven’s thorny themes of guns and retribution in tensely cinematic fashion. Contrino predicts the film could land in record-breaking January territory — the $75-$80 million range — for the weekend. “The word of mouth on this is so incredibly strong. I was nervous, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it,” he said. “There were a lot of sleepless nights early on where I was really overwhelmed with the responsibility.

That the title (taken from the book) should ironically echo Bret Easton Ellis’s satirically vitriolic portrait of male psychosis is appropriate, the film allowing its audience to view Kyle as either hero or villain – or both. Taya Kyle misses the way her husband, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, would hold her close or reach for her hand and make her laugh as they were walking in the Texas countryside. “I was madly in love with him and still am,” Taya tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. Coming out the other side of that was a huge accomplishment and it always makes you stronger, whether you fail or succeed, you gain different things from that,” he added.

Bradley Cooper, who saw this project passed from Steven Spielberg to Eastwood, is understatedly conflicted as Kyle, whom we first meet on a Fallujah rooftop, a woman and child in his rifle sights. Spiralling back to the young marksman’s first kill on a hunting trip, we learn that hesitation is a weakness and hear Kyle’s dad explain that there are only three types of people: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.

Yet after the 9/11 attacks, Kyle seems more coyote than collie, his family life collapsing as war takes its toll, only at peace when his killer instinct is in play. He may have a loving wife (the lately impressive Sienna Miller) at home, but it’s gunfire that puts lead in his pencil; what heavy breathing there is here comes from pre-trigger exhalation, shots fired between heartbeats (after lengthy voyeuristic foreplay), in moments of lethal ecstasy. Perhaps, like Flags of our Fathers (which Eastwood paired with Letters from Iowa Jima), American Sniper needs a more didactic balancing element; Spielberg wanted to expand the role of the Iraqi sniper who becomes Kyle’s nemesis, but Eastwood has stripped things back so that we observe the action through American eyes only, our focus as blinkered as that of its titular killer.

There’s sheep, and there’s wolves, and there’s sheepdogs – and their job is to protect the sheep…’ On arriving in Iraq, Kyle quickly found that was he a phenomenal marksman, and that his blood ran ice-cold under pressure. As such, it makes for disturbing viewing, the understandably clumsy closing coda (necessitated by events in 2013) forcing the film finally towards flag-waving endorsement in the face of unfolding tragedy at home.

On Feb. 2, 2013, a former Marine whom Chris was trying to helping cope with post traumatic stress disorder allegedly shot and killed Chris and his friend Chad Littlefield, on a Texas gun range. For years, while her husband – widely regarded as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history – was off fighting insurgents in Iraq, Taya would steel herself when the phone rang. There is real presence and heft to Cooper’s portrayal; we believe the characterisation, and we understand how the soldiers Kyle watched over from his sniper’s nest came to believe in him. Eastwood’s output over the last few years has been troublesome, and I wondered after Hoover and Jersey Boys whether he had another decent film in him. Even when a local police officer came to her house to tell her the news she had dreaded for years – that her husband had been killed – she says she resisted going to that “dark place” she feared. “I was just focused on what I had learned over the years: don’t go there until you know.” When her girlfriend told her the officer had come to her house to talk to her about Chris, “I thought, ‘I’m going to hear what hospital I’m going to go to,” she says. “But the officer looked at me kind of sad and said, ‘I’m sorry.

Why can’t they fix Daddy’s heart?’ I try not to be angry too much, but the kids are the ones that got cheated the most.” Chris had been working with screenwriter Jason Hall and Bradley Cooper to bring his story to the big screen when he died. It’s been a tremendous blessing.” To make sure the filmmakers got her husband’s story right, she opened her heart and her home to Cooper and Eastwood, telling them everything she could about the deadly sniper that Iraqi insurgents called “the Devil of Ramadi,” but who was also giving and loving. “He was a man with a huge heart and charisma and kindness,” she says. “I think the blessing is that Chris really lived. That takes an incredible amount of heart.” She admires Chris for how much pride he took in protecting his fellow soldiers on the battlefield. “I got a medal from a Marine who came home who said, ‘I am here because Chris saved my life, and I have a 2-year-old daughter that I never would have without Chris,’ ” says Taya. “It’s just about protecting each other, watching each other’s back and bringing each other home.” Taya says her family and friends, her faith and her children are helping her to live her life without her husband by her side. While she is preparing for the upcoming capital murder trial of Eddie Ray Routh, the 25-year-old charged with killing Chris and Littlefield, she says giving back is also helping her face her grief.

She founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to help enrich the relationships of military and first responders’ families. “That’s an honor and a privilege to work on,” she says.

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