Film Reviews

SULLY

By • Sep 8th, 2016 •

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Tom Hanks suffers and is scared.

Films must have conflict. Films must have a villain. Otherwise, it’s just the numbing regularity of ordinary people’s daily life.

The story of airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landing his plane – with 155 passengers – in the Hudson River in New York made him a national hero.

Hollywood recognized that there was a movie in there somewhere. At least you had the dramatic crash into the river. So let’s build a story around that. Audiences will want to see the crash and rescue in IMAX. For a villain, there are the birds. But the air is rightfully their domain, so what about the mean National Transportation Safety Board? Let’s make them the villains!

The NTSB’s mandate and duties is to investigate crashes. So the NTSB had to hold public hearings on why a plane landed in the Hudson River. A plane was destroyed. There might be lawsuits. There will be an insurance claim by the airline. Questions were raised on the pilot’s decision not to return to the airport. Would “they” intentionally sully the reputation of the plane’s captain?

Isn’t it good for business that a pilot knew what to do when two engines fail? With most news reporting on pilots being drunk in the cockpit, this story was brilliant, matchless PR.

Sully (Tom Hanks) has been a pilot for 42 years. He is at the top of the pilot ladder. (He’s probably making the top salary of $200,000 a year. Then he has his budding air-safety business. He could charge thousands to be an expert witness in lawsuits.)

For screenwriter Todd Komarnicki, the main objective is to come up with conflict. So right at the beginning of the film Komarnicki has Sully almost getting run over by a taxi on his daily run. Then Sully – leaping up from his bed in a cold sweat – has nightmares about crashing a plane. Is Sully psychic?

Now, at the apex of his career and commanding the best routes and the highest salary, Sully’s wife Lorraine (Laura Linney) worries about their second house not renting and they may lose their home! Have they been reckless with money? Does Sully like to play the horses? When Sully is grounded and forced to endure countless interviews with the NTSB, she tearfully expresses her love but tells him to get back to flying. They have bills to pay.

Did you know Sully had a co-pilot? Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) never gets the respect he deserves. Did he get a bridge named after him? Or a pond? Jeff did get to meet David Letterman. Jeff is a lot more animated then Sully. As played by Hanks, our working-class hero is overwhelmed by all the glory and fame. He just wants to go home. He is so humble that I felt sorry for him. Where was the swagger of a man who had 42 years as a pilot? Where was “the Captain” of the plane? Instead, Sully is scared. He’s scared of sleeping, scared of New York, scared of the NTSB and even scared of soft-baller Katie Couric. Sully always has a tortured, confused look on his face.

If you want to see why no one is interested in Katie Couric anymore, watch her interview Sully like he walked on the water from the plane to the pier.

Sure, every time I fly I think about September 11. Flying into or out of New York airports has a stain of bad karma attached to it. Yet, the 155 passengers on Sully’s plane were so well-behaved! No one shoved, pushed, or tried to get their overhead luggage! Of course, there had to be a few idiots. One man jumped into the water. A woman didn’t bother putting on her life jacket and fell into the water. There was no screaming.

Filmed entirely in IMAX, SULLY is terrific to look at. Clint Eastwood, who is still directing, does a sufficient job. You do not expect mood, character flaws or challenging point-of-view from an Eastwood film, especially when all the moving parts are in place for a sure-fire, audience-pleasing box office hit.

If truth be told, not everyone deserves to have a movie made about them. Sometimes an extraordinary thing happens to a very ordinary person. Sometimes, as self-proclaimed genius Gertrude Stein commented, “there is no there there.”

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com.

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