I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Sully

When I heard they made a movie about “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who heroically landed a downed commercial jetliner in the Hudson River, saving everyone onboard, I wondered how you would make a whole movie about that. Well, it turns out the story of Sully is a little more complicated than what I knew.

And I really mean a little more complicated. Not that much more complicated. He landed the plane, and then they said you know what, you might’ve done the wrong thing according some tests we did, and he said well this is why those tests are wrong, and after a while they said yeah you’re right, sorry about that Sully. The end.

So it’s weirdly uneventful for a movie about a famous airline disaster. But as a gentle character drama it’s not bad, the kind of thing that Clint Eastwood can make much more interesting than most directors could.

Clint’s not in it. Sully is played by Tom Hanks, a much more laid back continuation of his exploration of real-life-regular-working-schlub-captains-turned-celebrated-heroes in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS. Like Phillips he’s just doing his job when something bad happens and he responds the best way he knows how. But since it’s about the specific skill of flying and landing a plan, he’s really more like Clint’s character Gus in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE – the old timer who knows how to do it by FEEL better than all these fancy computers and what nots that the young guys have with the math and the aeronautical expertry and everything.

Laura Linney, who played Clint’s daughter in ABSOLUTE POWER, plays Sully’s wife. They have a weird relationship. She calls him “Sully,” for example. Sometimes she kinda seems like his assistant.

I think political criticisms of this one are probly fair. From what I understand, the actual Sully got them to change the names of the NTSB people because he felt it portrayed them as prosecuting him, when in fact they’re a fiercely unbiased group just trying to get to the bottom of what happened in order to improve safety in the future. In other words, the real Sully must be as decent and fair-minded as the movie character.

Portraying the NTSB kind of like bureaucrats in a DIRTY HARRY movie could do real damage to their reputation, part of the feedback loop of harming institutions to support a view that institutions are harmful. But if you can overlook that part it’s easy to relate to Clint’s depiction of somebody doing something great only to be picked apart and second-guessed for it. I always think of Jesse Jackson being called an egomaniac for negotiating a hostage release, Obama being demonized for getting millions of people health insurance, Superman being called a murderer for saving the entire human race from Zod. Nice try, assholes. Not good enough!

Sully in the movie is compelling for taking it pretty well. He stands up for his memory of what happened while also questioning himself. We see from his daydreams and nightmares that he’s not as calm on the inside as the outside. Like HEREAFTER, this is a quiet, intimate drama with some spectacularly realistic disaster scenes. The image of a jet flying between buildings in New York City brings up all kinds of fears beyond just plane crashes. And the scenes of average travelers faced with jumping into a freezing cold river puts details on the story that I hadn’t really thought about. This summer I jumped in a river for the first time since I was a teenager, and found a primal fear of suffocation I didn’t know was in there. That was just to hang out and drink beer, these people were fighting for life! But as we know from real life as well as DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, the people of New York know how to come together for this shit, so the Coast Guard and police were there.

Eckhart is subtly great as the co-pilot who respects Sully as both a colleague and an elder. The look of offended surprise on his face when he first hears them question Sully’s choices says so much.

This is definitely not one of Clint’s top directorial works. It’s a small, simple little thing. It’s not a home run. But this late in a career hitting an occasional single ain’t bad.

Clint lookin like Christopher Walken in BATMAN RETURNS

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 at 11:06 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Sully”

  1. I’m too offended Eastwood doesn’t have the same exact politics as me to go see his movies and am instead going to talk about how he’s a terrible director and all his movies are bland.

    Seriously though, this one was just okay. I went the LIMAX-route with this one and it was a bit amusing to see such a laid-back movie on a giant screen and multi-channeled sound system. Other than that, not much to say. It was good with good performances and sometimes I wish we’d get more smaller movies like this get a big push than we often get (even if it is only drum it’s Oscar chances).

  2. I think I liked this one a little better than Vern. I appreciated how low key it was, and both the topic and the approach fit Eastwood’s more relaxed style. The only major misstep was Mike O’Malley’s character who was a bit too much of an asshole.

  3. Lovecraft In Brooklyn

    February 14th, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    I just found out that A Real Hero, from the Drive soundtrack, was originally written about Sully. So it wasn’t meant to be an ironic and cool song at all, it was meant to be literally about a real hero. Kinda takes some of the fun out of it.

  4. One would think that after all these years a clever man like Eastwood would recognize that the bureaucrats he fight’s in all his movies comes from the same political side as himself. It’s not exactly Che Guevara he’s up against!

    PS! I hope Clint has one more “fun” movie left in him before he slowly fades away into obscurity…

  5. Clint turned 70 in 2000, and has directed fifteen (!) movies. And some pretty fucking great movies: American Sniper, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Gran Torino. And a musical to boot.
    It really is astonishing. Nothing will top Unforgiven, but that is a super impressive twilight of his career.

    Spielberg turned 70 last year, with Bridge of Spies and BFG to show for it. Ridley Scott has been pretty busy since turning 70 too, pumping out 8 movies. If I had shown my dad Prometheus on his 70th birthday, he would have fallen asleep twenty minutes in. Actually I was 45 when I saw it and it took me 2 hours to fall asleep, but just saying.

    Clint 87 and still pumping out movies. God Bless.

  6. Clint kind of has a cameo. A Gran Torino billboard can be seen during one of Sully’s jogs, although I probably would’ve missed it if I hadn’t read about it.

  7. I think the film’s biggest issue is its structure. It seems like they had no clue how to structure the events of the story. I like it starting off after the plane crash, and than flashing back. But the film does this several times. Flashing back and forth for what seemed like no good reason. This also kills the suspense and tension that builds up before and during the plane crash. It’s a shame that there is such a great plane crash sequence in this film, but not a great film for it to go with. I also felt it was unnecessary to show the plane crash again during the trial. But the most baffling decision of them all was the way the film ends, simply on a whim after Eckhart makes a joke. I would have liked to have seen Sully reunite with his wife after everything, to get some resolution. Also, the end credits showed very little of the actual survivors, and it felt odd to include them for such a short amount of time. They also don’t even bother to connect them to the characters we saw on screen. I would have liked to have seen the actual guy who jumped off the wing. Or the flight attendants. Anything like that would have been nice. At the end of the day, it’s a solid film, with great segments and a good story, but it falters overall and can’t take off the way it wishes it could. Instead, it runs into a flock of ducks and crash lands into the water, somewhat saving itself but not entirely.

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