Clint Eastwood Is Back With a Bang With ‘American Sniper’

The first official trailer for the Clint Eastwood-directed war drama American Sniper has just been released, and it already has viewers buzzing. The acclaimed filmmaker’s last directorial work, Jersey Boys, didn’t get much love, but from the looks of the new suspense-filled clip, this latest effort could get him back on track.

The movie is adapted from Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s autobiographical book of the same name, which details how the Texas native became one of the most lethal snipers in U.S. military history. Bradley Cooper stars in the film as Kyle, who became publicly known for holding the record highest number of sniper kills for an American and was eventually shot and killed at a shooting range in his home state in 2013.

The trailer follows him in one such harrowing situation, in which the soldier is forced to make a deadly decision about whether to shoot a young boy holding a grenade. Interspersed between close-ups shots of his tortured face as he wrestles with the choice are brief glimpses at his life as an ordinary civilian — his relationship, his marriage, the birth of his child. The entire package, though largely focused on only one scene, is enough to give anyone the kind of chills you rarely get from movie trailers these days.

Cooper, who has been making exceptionally smart and well-received role choices as of late, reportedly took on the film as a passion project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor is not only starring in the movie, but also producing with Andrew Lazar under both their respective companies, the Warner Bros.-based 22nd & Indiana and Mad Chance Productions.

Passion project or not, it’s a smart choice. The actor has been slowly but steadily building an increasingly impressive resume, with well-received turns in Oscar contenders Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, as well as a voice-over part in the box office smash Guardians of the Galaxy. This particular role looks like it will serve to earn him even more critical acclaim, especially given the stirring subject matter and the physical transformation he underwent for the part. Already, some are putting in early predictions that the performance will earn him awards season attention.

But Cooper isn’t the one with a lot riding on this film. Eastwood’s had trouble developing a smash hit project since well before Jersey Boys. 2011’s J. Edgar wasn’t too well received, and though 2008’s Gran Torino was highly critically praised, it failed to garner any awards season attention. 2009’s Invictus had a similar fate, earning acting nominations at the Oscars for stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, but none for the film overall. After taking over American Sniper, following Steven Spielberg’s departure last year, it leaves many wondering whether he can finally get back on target with this project — and perhaps even replicate history by nabbing a Best Picture nod with a last-minute December release (as he did with the Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby).

Obviously, we’ve only just begun to get a look at what the film will entail. But already, it seems to hold a lot of potential, with the compelling story dividing its time between Kyle on duty and in action, and his return home, during which he struggles to leave the war behind and just focus on being a good family man. Hopefully Eastwood can deliver, and the rest of the film will live up to the riveting trailer.

American Sniper hits theaters in limited release on Christmas Day before expanding on January 16.

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