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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Movie Review - Sully

Sully (2015)
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Mike O'Malley, Jamey Sheridan, Anna Gunn, and Laura Linney
Directed by Clint Eastwood

I have long criticized that as a director Clint Eastwood doesn't create films that garner an emotional connection between the characters and the audience.  There's a disconnect that Eastwood often isn't able to overcome even in films where the kinship should be palpable (ex: American Sniper).  I'm happy to report that isn't the case in Sully, a film that retells the tale of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his successful attempt to land a passenger aircraft on the bitterly cold Hudson River on January 15, 2009, after a massive engine failure.  Credit is certainly due to Eastwood for crafting a briskly edited film and capturing a fantastic performance from Tom Hanks as the title character.

The film places Sully in a bit of a predicament, opening not by showing the audience the Hudson River landing, but instead in the midst of the build-up to an evidentiary hearing debating whether Captain Sullenberger could've landed his plane at one of several nearby airports as opposed to on the water.  Most of the film is spent doubting Sully's abilities (by both the NTSB and Sully himself) while at the same time the media touts his heroic effort, and this juxtaposition causes the title character to question his actions -- is he really as good of a pilot as he thought he was and does he deserve the praise he's receiving nationwide despite the fact that he saved all 155 souls onboard the plane.  This conceit of placing Sully under fire does wonders for creating a well-rounded title character in that it allows the fantastic Tom Hanks to play someone largely doubting himself throughout the entirety of the film, a man haunted by a frightening event that, for all intents and purposes, ended positively.  Rather than just be portrayed as a outright hero, Hanks is allowed to layer his performance with humility, anger, confidence, weakness, and strength.  Tom Hanks has always been known as the modern-day Jimmy Stewart -- cinema's everyman, cinema's "normal guy."  While there may seem to be a simplicity with playing a regular joe character like Sully, Hanks creates an effortlessly humbling performance which, to this moviegoer, isn't necessarily easy to achieve.

Kudos must also be given to Eastwood whose tautly directed film (which clocks in at a speedy 96 minutes) creates suspense out of a 205-second plane landing and its aftermath -- the results of which we in the audience already know the outcome.  In a successful effort to keep our interest, Eastwood (and the screenwriter, presumably) has his film jump around in time and while we in the audience never question where we are in the chronological timeline, we at least are given a bit of a puzzle to piece together from this admittedly well-known story.  While it gets a tad repetitive towards the end (we essentially get a complete redo of the plane landing sequence which we had already seen less than thirty minutes prior), Eastwood successfully creates a tension-filled movie and doesn't disappoint with his lensing of the initial landing sequence -- a moment we in the audience are waiting for from the outset.

Along with a nice supporting turn from Aaron Eckhart as Sully's co-pilot Jeff Skiles (who is a real-life person I didn't know about in the slightest), Eastwood has created a winner with Sully.  Color me surprised as I didn't think the aging director had it in him, but he proved me wrong with this one.

The RyMickey Rating:  B+

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