Sully movie full length review - Grey Goose, a dash of icy-cold Hudson, the 155, and the X factor
Absolutely love Clint Eastwood movies, both the ones in which he acted, as well as directed, to a great extent.
Based on what little I've seen of his mammoth body of work, both in front of and behind the camera, I divide his body of work into 4 phases: Post Rawhide, post his Sergio Leone spaghetti western trilogy, post Dirty Harry, post 'Play misty for me', post 'Unforgiven' and post his conversation with the chair (yes, that happened).
I've been (called) an Eastwood apologist too, when it came to defending his work in/on movies like 'Dirty Harry 5:The dead pool', 'Where Eagles dare' and 'True Crime', as well as 'J Edgar' and 'Changeling' (throw in 'Million Dollar baby' and 'Gran Torino' as well, that some did not fancy).
Onto 'Sully' then, the first collaboration between an actor of the caliber of Tom Hanks, and the consummate thespian Eastwood (who, by the way, scores this once again, pretty decently, I might add - though I do miss his collaborations with Lennie Niehaus).
Regardless of the based-on-a-true-story aspect to this, this makes for a companion piece to Robert Zemeckis' fantastic 'Flight'. So, this movie is not about the event itself, but is about how we perceive heroes and heroism, and what heroism is all about. Like any other mainstream movie that takes itself too seriously, this also treads safe all the way, while ensuring that the main narrative has quite a bit of heft.
I remember the media covering this the way they do any event nowadays, and the jingoistic tone of most people in awe of both Captain Sully's presence of mind, as well as the 'miracle' itself.
Having followed that when it unfolded, and having watched this movie, I'd speculate that the makers try and stay close to the source material, framing the narrative in such a way that there are flashbacks that are contextual in nature. Incorporating aspects like how the icy-cold Hudson river might have had the last word in, if it were not for prompt first-responders (there are stats that play towards the end that should give various governments and their politicians some food for serious thought to meeting/surpassing the 24-minute barrier - I do hope they don't miss it, with the perceptive blindness that seems more rampant, and even typical, than it was ever before).
This has been a good year for biopics and narratives based on true stories, with most makers, even in the mainstream milieu, making a genuine effort to limit their fictional embellishment to a minimum.
While that is appreciable, making this tale compelling to an audience that did not go thru the ordeal, the way the 155 did, and keeping the focus trained solely on the Captain and his first mate (a solid Aaron Eckhart), doesn't quite cut it, imho.
This is very unlike the technique followed by Greenglass' most powerful work, imho, 'United 93', which quickly put us bang(!) in the middle of action, without making the arcs of the protagonists and the antagonists anecdotal, we felt for each character right until the end.
We don't get to know his family, other than perfunctory phone calls between the husband and wife. I could not believe that he did not talk to his children. I still am puzzled by that choice. I think there was something missing. I could understand that the character was numb and overwhelmed, but when you've just escaped with your life, don't you wanna talk to the ppl you've brought into this world. Or, if you do not, why is the reason/motivation for that non- communication not shown?
Laura Linney, a fine and capable actress, who was well-served by Eastwood being at the helm in his underrated 'Absolute Power', is criminally underused in this one, along with her character having no kind of an arc at all. To me, it does not make sense casting an actress of her caliber if you do not intend to have her perform to her potential.
The contrived way in which one important character gets to understand 'timing' and decides to use it, when it might just have been staring him/her in the face all along, along with touching, perfunctorily, upon how it was a team effort etc., to me, sounded insincere, if not patronizing. However, if Eastwood and Komarnicki intended for the same effect, I think they quite succeeded there.
For all those mis-steps, the movie is filled with powerful and evocative imagery, along with quite a few great performances and set-pieces. Eastwood also inserts his own poster (for 'Gran Torino') in a blink-and-you'll-miss frame. Not sure that was necessary, but not sure if everyone'll catch it either.
And I will not be surprised if Hanks is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this one, though he did better work on another flick of his - Captain Philips (helmed by United 93's Paul Greengrass).
As to how I find Eastwood's directorial work on this one? It's not his best, unfortunately. I've been waiting waiting to see him surpass his own work on powerful stuff like 'Unforgiven', 'Million dollar baby' (in spite of all its detractors), 'Mystic river' (for my money, his best, even better than his 'Unforgiven' or 'The outlaw Josey Wales'), 'A perfect world', 'Letters for Iwo Jima' (I still prefer this to his work on its companion-piece, 'Flags of our fathers' in spite of the fact that both were well-made) and 'Gran Torino'. Still waiting though. This wasn't it, and it didn't even come close.
Having said all that, this movie definitely needs to be watched, especially by those who do not know much about what actually transpired on Jan 15, 2009. If what's shown here really went down the way Eastwood and the writers told us it did, then being human is something truly amazing.