FILM REVIEWS

Sully

7/10 PG-13 01 hr 36 min

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Giving the audience what they want—a fantastic aerial disaster in which no one gets hurt—Clint Eastwood's often-pretty-good Sully is highlighted by the self-effacing underacting of Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger. This time, Eastwood is certainly lionizing a higher grade of person than American Sniper's Chris Kyle.

Appropriately, Hanks plays the Diablo Valley-based pilot as a dream movie hero—soft-spoken, reluctant to accept praise. Nerveless, in the cockpit, the fear only strikes him later when he's alone, in the bath, or outrunning the anxiety in jogging sessions late at night.

Winging to Charlotte from LaGuardia, US Airways Flight 1549 encountered a flock of Canada geese. The birds exploded both engines on the Airbus A320. Eastwood's film suggests the real ordeal was to come: suspicious inquiry from the government agents who believed that Sullenberger could have brought the jet home to one of two nearby airports, instead of splashing down on the river.

The story of Sullenberger's forced water landing in the Hudson on Jan. 15, 2009, is natural material for a movie. The silent, powerless jet gliding over the Manhattan skyscape is bad enough in ordinary screen; in IMAX it must be terrifying. Hanks handles the wheel with his fear swallowed down, leaving a rugged Aaron Eckhart (as Flight 1549's first officer, Jeff Skiles) to handle the reactions. Eckhart does the slow burns, the skepticism and utters the seeming sole joke in the movie—an aside about water temperature.

As in American Sniper, there's a nervous wife at home; a squandered Laura Linney doing the very acting-over-the-telephone that she recently satirized on Inside Amy Schumer. (There, Linney was the Oscar-nominated wife in the imaginary Canadian Sniper, shouting over the gunfire: "I can't hear you over all that snipering!")

So Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) is left to represent the women in the audience. If the National Transportation Safety Board conducts itself like the jury members in the trial of Joan of Arc, Gunn's wide, square face, suffused with emotions, shows us that even before the results come in, she knows—deep in her heart—that Sully did the right thing.

The indication of government ill-will has been criticized by the NTSB officials who don't enjoy being presented as villains. Perhaps they shouldn't have taken it personally. Clint Eastwood has been in an unusual business for more than 50 years, and I suspect he thinks that air agencies operate in the same way the movie world does. Why else would the committees, in their beige meeting rooms, look so much like a film press junket, in which half the critics present aren't convinced by the story they're hearing? Sully's complaints about computer simulations that leave out the humanity might as well be an old-time director complaining about CG characters. Being pestered by Katie Couric and patronized by Dave Letterman, being buttered up or manhandled by odd fans, seeing yourself on all the Times Square video screens at once: these are a movie star's problems.

Opening on the 15th anniversary weekend of 9/11, Sully is consoling counterprogramming. "We don't get much good news here in New York É especially regarding airplanes," says a minor character here, lest we forget. And Sully is a particularly touching film when watched in Silicon Valley, where age discrimination is considered a smart business practice. No one of a certain age forgets that Captain Sullivan was 57 when he saved the lives of some 150 passengers.

We all know what Eastwood thinks of Michael Moore. So it's bemusing that Moore caught an angle on Sully's post-Flight 1549 career that Eastwood neglects, in his documentary Capitalism: A Love Story. Rather than merely being a hero who fought down a nasty, jesting-Pilate government agency, Sully asked the government to help airline pilots at a hearing. He testified against the weakening of minimum standards for pilot experience being demanded by the airline industry lobby. As Moore observed, the speech was under-attended by lawmakers.

But the stand shows what kind of man Sullivan is: someone who saved lives not just because of his own calm-under-pressure, skill and amazing guts, but because of sterling technology and the strength of regulations.

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Filmmaker Clint Eastwood is certainly no stranger to overseeing exploratory biopics and his latest effort in **Sully** definitely supports his cinematic vision for spotlighting an unknown everyday aviation professional into an overnight national hero. Thus, airline pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger became an inspirational savior courtesy of the potentially fateful day on January 15, 2009 when US Airways Flight 1749 morphed into the celebrated newsworthy incident dubbed "Miracle on the Hudson"

In **Sully** Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Kormarinski presents Captain Sullenberger as an understated hero in the unconventional sense. Indeed, Sullenberger had his personal demons and doubts about that critical day years ago when his quick decision to land the doomed aircraft in the icy waters of the Hudson River in the aftermath of a freakish occurrence when a flock of birds managed to disable the engine's operation shortly after takeover from LaGuardia Airport. The label of "hero" may have been somewhat flattering for the veteran pilot in light of his accomplishment in saving the lives of his 155 passengers and crew courtesy of a risky landing that could have been their hellish watery graves. However, the burdensome christening of "hero" weighed heavily on Sullenberger especially when insulting suspicions arose questioning the pilot's actions. Sure, Sullenberger basked in instant adulation but his private torment was almost as haunting as the near tragedy he prevented when ensuring the airborne safety of those jeopardized on board.

The challenging task in **Sully** was to create the tension and psychological strife behind an infamous 6-minute flight headed for disaster. Thankfully, Eastwood's steady direction and Komarnicki's adventurous script captures the tense and anxiety-driven moments that fuels **Sully's** soulful foundation. More important, two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks diligently fits the bill as the beleaguered Captain Sullenberger whose personalized battles with heroism caused pressured ambivalence and self-inflicted guilt. It has been an awful long time since Hanks was tapped for an Oscar nomination so let's hope that his solid work in **Sully** warrants Academy Award consideration.

Some may be rather cynical about Eastwood's daring narrative as the self-explanatory story has been interpreted in so many news accounts, documentaries, the personal accounts from the Flight 1749 survivors and to a certain extent Captain Sullenberger himself. Still, **Sully** sets out to examine a conflicted and confused man second guessing his aviation skills and instincts as an individual thrust into the national spotlight with a combination of hope and hesitation.

Not only had the quick-thinking Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart in a welcomed, absorbing supporting role) dodged a major catastrophe when accidentally flying into the cluttered Canadian geese that caused the ice-cold water landing in the Hudson but they were actually scrutinized by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding Sully's decision not to return the malfunctioning plane to LaGuardia Airport or toward a nearby airport therefore opting to gamble using the Hudson River as the immediate surface available to land.

Naturally, the sudden media attention anointing the heralded pilot as a heroic soul coupled with the mixed reception of the buzz-killers in the NTSB speculating that foul play may have been involved for the piloting tandem of Flight 1549 understandably heightened the self-doubts and generated Sully's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the meantime, Sullenberger's wife Lorrie (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney) as well as other close family and associates are constantly being hounded by intrusive reporters in their attempt to get an exclusive piece of the cherished "man of the moment" in Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

Granted that **Sully** will not go down as one of the flashiest biopics to cross our paths on the big screen in recent years. But Eastwood does deserve credit for showcasing the somber and beleaguered Sullenberger as a low-key, loyal isolationist dealing with the newfound fame and appreciation he is awkwardly at odds with facing as the Hudson River landing/rescue still chomps at his tainted psyche. Hanks's portrayal of the extremely likable but reluctant hero with lingering reservations is a stark contrast to contemporary cinematic heroes that routinely defeat monsters and aliens, parade around as slick and resilient super spies, wear superhero masks and capes, solemnly walk the mean streets with ready-made badges and firearms or are war-torn warriors from ancient historical times. Quite frankly, Chesley "Sully" Sullemberger is a flawed yet conscientious man urged to question his own courageousness and professional conviction.

Eckhart's Stiles is effectively drawn as Sully's ardent supporter whose disbelief is tested when the NTSB has the nervy gumption to place his capable colleague under the dubious microscope after his amazing endeavor in protecting the sacred lives all on board the panicky plane destined for its doomsday fate. Conveniently, Eastwood inserts Anna Gunn (from TV's "Breaking Bad") as one of the perceived NTSB interrogating "baddies" trying to pin the wrap on Sully's numb shoulders in reference to his troubling flight methods. Linney, always the talented and involving actress, is merely reduced to displaying the commonplace hysterics of Sully's concerned spouse.

Perhaps **Sully** is not the most thoroughly in-depth biopic one would have imagined because we are working with the perplexing man whose heroic actions made us aware of this seasoned phenomenal flyboy glorified in our living rooms nearly two decades ago. There is not much to ponder about Eastwood's fictitious Sullenberger from his past that gives insight to his current-day characterization as the media-praised hero-in-healing. In all fairness, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's claim to fame was his hasty option to spare the endangered existences of his passengers and crew so Eastwood allows his problematic protagonist's questionable heroics to paint the picture as the incredible individual whose January 2009 resourcefulness spoke more truthfully than any miscellaneous flashbacks could do to justify Sully's angst-ridden tendencies.

Overall, **Sully** establishes a different kind of turbulence for an introspective yet gently intense wounded wonder tip toeing on the borderline of deserved and deceptive worship.

**Sully** (2016)

Warner Bros.

1 hr. 36 mins.

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Jeffrey Nordling, Jamey Sheridan, Michael Rappaport, Anna Gunn, Valarie Mahaffey

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Drama/Biopic

Critic's rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) **Frank Ochieng** 2016

**When a real human bravery wasn't appreciated till the computers confirmed it.**

Another excellent biographical drama for Tom Hanks in the title role. He has transformed from captain Phillips to captain Sully. Another great addition to Clint Eastwood's filmography as well, he never disappoints us. This film was based on the real event of the January 15, 2009. When a US passenger plane got hit by birds just after the take off, losing both the engines, landed on the New York's Hudson river. So the film reveals the heroic event, as well as followed by the investigation of the crash landing.

As it is a Hollywood film what should I expect, another American bravery? Yep, but still a good film, very engaging plot. It's not all about the plane event, because I thought one of the film poster is a spoiler. So the film covers more story, about the drama surrounding the main event. Especially saving the lives, that inspires even for the outside Americans. The entire narration is about two-three day affair, but most of the film was about the crash landing. From the actors to the visuals, all were top class. One of the best biopic that's not based on one's whole life, but one heroic attempt which will be remembered him and this film for forever.

_8/10_

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