I am going to micro analyse the scene from ‘American sniper’ when Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper shoots a Taliban soldier carrying a rocket launcher and a little boy then picks it up. American Sniper is a film based on the biography of Chris Kyle (America’s most dangerous sniper), it was released in 2014 and was directed by Clint Eastwood. This essay will focus on the way that key micro features help to create a realistic film world for the viewer. The selected micro features are … In the selected scene from American Sniper we see Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) laying on a rooftop glancing down on the street being an ‘overwatch’ for the American troops below. The mise-en-scene for this part of the scene looks well thought through, for instance he is seen in a dusty, bomb damaged urban area with rubble and burnt out cars around. He is laying on some sort of improvised bed with blankets on.
This use of props is convincing for the audience because this could have been created from junk that was just laying around that has put together to give him the higher angle that he needs to obtain a better view. As well as the setting and props that appear in this scene another important element of mise-en-scene in this section of the film is costume. Chris is wearing a brown/yellow uniform which is instantly recognisable as an army uniform. This costume helps the audience develop their understanding of who Chris Kyle is (an American soldier), where the scene is set (the desserts of the middle east) and his role ( a covert sniper who needs to remain hidden to do his job). The connotation of the uniform is that the audience perceive Chris Kyle as a hero, a soldier sanctions by his country to fight, a protector of others and a man with the power of life and death at his finger tips. The uniform and its connotations help the audience form an emotional attachment to him as a character.
The next shot in this scene is a close up of Chris’s face that appears to be emotionless as he glances down the scope protecting his men. Throughout this part of the scene it is calm as he studies the battlefield and watches the spot where there is a possible threat. The audience realise that he is under control, confident, and a very capable soldier. This helps them to feel confident that he is very good at his job an will be successful in his mission, reinforcing his heroic status. This status promoted further as there are no signs of nerves or panic even though the situation is tense and dangerous. The next camera angle is a point of view shot that has a slight sway to make the audience feel like it is Chris holding the rifle. This technique places the audience in the action and again helps to build their attachment to Chris as a character. They are literally in the action seeing the world through Chris’s eyes.
When a member of the Taliban appears in his sights he keeps him in his crosshairs watching his every move. Every few seconds the camera cuts back to Chris’s face which stays completely emotionless. Even when the Taliban fighter aims an RPG at the American Humvee his emotions stay the same. At this point, without showing any change in his breathing or emotions, Chris takes his shot and kills the Taliban soldier. The lack of emotion shown and matter of fact way that he kills shows the audience that he is ruthless and that killing is not a big deal to him; that he has accepted his role and is comfortable with the things that he has to do to protect the other soldiers. The attention to detail of Bradley Coopers’ performance is remarkable. He watches on relentlessly with complete focus waiting for the perfect moment to execute his shot and this portrays a snipers attitude very effectively.
The audience feel that this is the way that all snipers behave and provides them with an insight in to the emotions, or lack of emotions, that they need to become effective killers. The main sound that the audience hear throughout the scene is the heavy breathing from Bradley Cooper. This sound effect helps to increase the tension that the viewer feels and also emphasises the importance of breath control for a sniper. Anyone with any knowledge on snipers knows they take deep breaths to focus their shots and stop the sway of the rifle. The inclusion of this sound effect and the acting fit all the conventions of a sniper and make Cooper’s performance feel real. When the shot changes to a close upshot of the finger on the trigger slowly pulling it builds the tension as the viewers are left wondering whether or not he will shoot or whether the Taliban soldier will drop the weapon. The colour palette for the selected scene in American sniper is a desert yellow and dull colours for the surrounding areas.
Bradley Cooper’s outfit for this scene is an American marine desert storm uniform. This is a mix between yellow and brown which blends perfectly into the set. The set in American sniper seems well thought out as the area around the cross hair is secluded and there is nothing around this creates the atmosphere that they are out in the open and the sniper can see every movement they make. In addition the setting increases the feeling of isolation that the sniper feels. The viewer realises how alone a sniper is, how they rely on their ability to blend in with the surroundings and how they are reliant on their own abilities. This adds a sense of danger to the scene and makes the viewer feel concern for Chris Kyle, even though he is a highly trained soldier. The emptiness could also indicate that the sniper feels empty inside and has no qualms about what he is doing, if he has to shoot someone to protect another he will do it with no remorse. As the actor Bradley Cooper shoots the Taliban he removes his eye from the scope as he watches a small boy run for the RPG and pick it up.
By him removing himself from the scope it suggests a more human side to the sniper as he doesn’t want to be aiming at a child through a weapon however when the child gets closer to the RPG and begins to pick it up he looks back through the scope and watches the child. Tension builds as the audience feel his reluctance to shoot and they feel that he is resisting killing the child even though he is placing the soldiers at risk of death. This almost makes the sniper seem weak as he doesn’t shoot even when the child picks up the weapon but also shows that, although he can be a ruthless killer when on the battlefield, there is a human being inside. This scene is enhanced by the line of dialogue he keeps repeating; “drop it kid”. This highlights that he doesn’t want to shoot the child but knows that if he doesn’t drop it there will be nothing he can do to stop himself. The audience are, as a result of this sequence, shown the pressure he has to do his job, to make decisions and that he has to live with them afterwards.
The audience are further reminded of the human side of war as a result. The non-digenetic audio in this scene is used effectively to build an emotional effect. When Chris Kyle says “don’t pick it up” a loud beat sounds that represents his heart beat as he has to aim at a small child, however after this beat it goes silent building tension. When the child begins picking up the RPG the beat returns at an increased rate mimicking the sniper’s heart rate. By doing this, the viewer feels his anxiety. Through the combination of the close up and point of view shots as well as the sound the audience can feel what Chris Kyle does.
They become part of the scene, a sniper aiming at a child. The beat continues until the child drops the RPG when it suddenly stops, allowing the tension to subside. Through the combination of props, setting, sound and acting Clint Eastwood has created a dramatic and powerful film that engages audiences and makes them feel the emotions of the main character. The film presents a reality that shows the audience the nature of modern warfare and the way that this impacts on the soldiers that take part in these conflicts, allowing them, from the safety of their seat, to appreciate the danger, drama and cost of war.