Saturday, January 17, 2015
American Sniper: End Credits Song
(spoiler) One of my favorite parts about Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is that final shot, in which Sienna Miller's Taya Kyle watches her husband Chris Kyle go off in his truck with a veteran for an afternoon at a shooting range. Husband and wife exchange a parting glance, and her stare at Chris imparts a sense that she knows there's some sort of uncomfortable, eerie event soon occur. In no way could she have known that Chris Kyle was to be murdered that day, but one gathers she felt something wasn't quite right. Sienna Miller's gaze at her husband as she slowly closes the door is my favorite piece of acting from her in the film. It's the most subtle in a role that, while admirably played, is far too frequently overwrought for dramatic effect (it was also Eastwood's choice to end the film here, one of many examples in which he altered the written script, just for those who think he simply shoots the words on the page).
American Sniper has been breaking all kinds of box office records (being a Dallas native, it's particularly hitting home with my fellow Texans; I'm also just thrilled that it's getting people out to the theatre-since when have there been so many sold-out showings for such an extensive period of time?) and people are having an almost unreal emotional response to it. There's something about Kyle-his taciturn approach to life combined with his utterly committed sense of responsibility to his fellow men perhaps-that really strikes a chord with the steadfast American ethos of duty and love.
Kyle, Cooper's performance, the action scenes, the PTSD sequences, and Eastwood's direction, have already been commented on extensively to the point where at this point I don't feel I've much to add (Ignatiy Vishnevetsky nailed the film in a few paragraphs; I'd also recommend Richard Brody's and Glenn Kenny's take on the movie, as well as What the Flick's review on Youtube). But I will say this: the choices made for the end credits sequence was utterly fantastic. As Eastwood did in his 2009 film Invictus, rather than employing extensive title cards that "wrap up" the story, we simply get images, in this case, the funeral procession for Kyle in 2013 around and in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium. Taken from stock video footage, the images function to remind viewers beyond info title sheets that this didn't just happen, but really happened. In many ways it provides a greater emotional pull, and yet I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of that had to do with the song choice that I imagine Eastwood picked for this sequence. It's a piece by Ennio Morricone--who Eastwood of course has massive ties to--called The Funeral, taken from the a little known Spaghetti Western called The Return of Ringo (released in 1965, the same year as Eastwood's own For a Few Dollars More). It combines a stirring, heroic, somber trumpet with Morricone's trademark choir sounds to create the sense of a funeral procession that is both solemn and transcendent. It's a beautifully written piece, clearly composed to honor the dead, and is the ideal choice for the conclusion of American Sniper. Not only does it offer emotional resonance for the viewer who has spent two intense hours witnessing Kyle's pursuits, but, in a grander sense, it makes one connect the film to Eastwood's entire filmography, particularly his early movies that of course featured Morricone's most enduring works.