Solid Hanks boosts ‘Sully’ flight status

by Tim English on September 9, 2016

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

Remember back in 2009 when that bad ass airline pilot landed that passenger plane on the Hudson River. It was dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson”, and it scared the living hell out of everyone living in New York City and turned Captain Chelsey Sullenberger into an instant celebrity.

Well, now it’s a movie, because every interesting news story has to be, right? Sully, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood, has everything it needs to be a critical darling and establish itself as an early frontrunner before awards season begins.

Don’t be fooled. That’s not to say this movie is bad. It is actually pretty good — not great, but certainly good. But, in a year that has been downright dreadful as far as the quality of films hitting the multiplex, Sully, by comparison is going to appear to be a much better movie than what it really is.

Focusing primarily on the aftermath of the incident, Sully revels in Sullenberger’s discomfort with the media attention and his insistence that he did the right thing despite the investigation that seems to be certain that he could have, in fact, made it back to the airport and instead put the passengers in more danger by landing on the freaking river.

Thankfully, Clint and company keep the running time short. Sully clocks in at a stunning 96 minutes, rare for a movie made solely for the purpose of a sure-fire Oscar push. It almost seems too simplistic. But, it’s better than cramming in a bunch of made up, unnecessary plot tidbits just to make it more interesting and longer.

The story is pretty amazing and Captain Sullenberger is absolutely a hero. But — yeah, there’s always a but (and here’s where my personal, critical opinion gets in the way) the weak link is director Clint Eastwood. Sorry, but I’ve never been sold on his style and his inability to get real performances from his actors.

Eastwood is lucky that Tom Hanks is such an incredible actor, able to overcome the misguided direction. And Hanks is, as usual, fantastic. He’s one of the few actors in Hollywood who can literally make any movie better. And he’s on top of his game here. You’ll feel Captain Sully’s loneliness and isolation seeping through Hanks’ soulful eyes. Aaron Eckhart is about the only other character that feels genuinely real. He’s good as co-pilot Jeff Skiles, but he also shares most of his screen time with Hanks.

Not everyone in the cast is as lucky. Eastwood is famous for his limitations on actor takes and it’s evident in his movies. There are some emotional moments that could have been handled better. But, Clint is such a tough guy, you can almost imagine him on the set, rolling his eyes because an actor may have to get produce a real human emotion that goes beyond a distant stare.

Sometimes it seems like the actors are speaking their lines out loud for the first time before moving on to the next line or scene. And then the movie just kind of ends abruptly. There’s enough closure yeah. But the final scene is like something out of a Scooby Doo episode —

(the following is 95% accurate dialogue)

INVESTIGATOR: Is there anything you would have done differently?

CO-PILOT: Yeah … I woulda done it in July.

Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. Roll credits.

Or something like that….there’s a lot left kinda hanging, but nothing that will leave you feeling cheated. It just suddenly feels incomplete. Classic Eastwood.

Sully is good, just not great. But thanks to another fantastic performance from Tom Hanks, it’s a promising start to awards season.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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