Friday, 16 December 2016
When I think about it, it has been years - decades - since we’ve seen Tom Hanks actually put his excellent acting talents into good use in a role that actually justifies their deployment. Well, that wait is over with Sully, the latest movie from director Clint Eastwood.
Hanks plays Sully, the pilot who managed IRL to emergency land his passenger jet on the Hudson River after taking off from New York’s La Guardia on a cold January 2009 morning and losing his engines to a flock of birds shortly afterwards. If landing on water doesn’t sound fantastic on its own, then do consider the fact that not only did none of the 155 people on that plane lose their lives, at worst they suffered minor injuries. I can go on and on about this miracle, but I will pause by stating that until Sully came along and made his point, I thought the whole pre takeoff speech about life vests under the seat was a total waste of everybody’s time.
Back to the movie. Sully takes place immediately after that miraculous landing, and its main event are the investigations taking place shortly after the rescue itself. While Sully was regarded as a hero by the public, the movie makes it appear as if he was considered a villain by aviation authorites who considered him a lucky villain. Sully, they claim in the movie, should and could have returned the plane to La Guardia, instead of gambling with people’s lives the way he did and creating hundreds of million dollar holes in the insurance company’s accounts.
Personally, I see that accusation part of the movie as its weakest link. I have no idea how authentic our movie is to the real life events; all I know is that the rescue photos I recall from the time look awfully identical to the movie’s recreation. (And yes, while the movie’s plot is all about the clearing of Sully’s name after the accident, you will see the accident itself - several times, from different angles - during the movie itself.) But it definitely does feel as if Sully’s accusers are unnaturally heavy handed in their accusations, unreasonable to say the least and criminally so to say more; surely those fellow pilots and professionals are better than that?
I can thus mostly conclude that, at least in this part of the movie, Eastwood is exposing us yet again to his darker side, the side we’ve seen before along an empty chair at that dreadful Republican Party Congress. I love Clint Eastwood and consider him a great director, definitely one of my favourites, but I have no idea what goes on in his head sometimes.
It seems rather easy to offer speculations as to what it is that drove Eastwood to tarnish his film that badly. I suspect the matter is one of American politics, which further explains why it is that the movie feels so awkward to this non American. It looks like Eastwood is trying to suggest that under Obama’s USA, a hero is not allowed to be a hero anymore; the powers that be would quickly jump in to hammer that hero down. I do not know if that is really the case in today’s USA, but I do think that as much as I despise president elect Trump I do have to acknowledge that he fits into the picture because we had eight years of Obama before him. And it’s not like I’m in love with Obama, either. So I disagree with Eastwood but I will concede he is simply making the same mistake his fellow voters (and, for that matter, Brexit voters) have made: the establishment is going wrong, sure, but it’s not like the Republicans have offered us a way to sort things out. On the contrary, every indicator points at things taking a downturn.
Take that political factor off Sully, and you are still left with a great movie. A great movie because it is still a wonderful depiction of a person, a true professional, and his ability to deal with the worst that the natural world can throw at a person and still come up with the upper hand. In a world that tells us Terminator machines are about to rise and kill us all, or at least driverless cars are coming to take our jobs away, Hanks and Sully conspire to show us that there is still room and need left for people in this world. And Sully is indiscriminate is his act of saving lives, saving people regardless of race, creed of gender.
Further praise goes to Aaron Echhart portrayal of Sully’s copilot, Jeff Skiles. Speaking as someone who has been inside a passenger jet cockpit over several takeoffs and landings, the movie’s portrayal of those events looks and feels incredibly realistic. Also notable is the fact the actions taken by the pilots during the crisis, as portrayed in the movie, depict a picture of ultimate proficiency. Both were under the impression they are going to die, but both were as cool as in their attempts to turn the odds in their favour. Ultimately, it took unprecedented skill to land a jet on water; the fact this pilot did it has turned him, and justly so, from yet another professional pilot into a bone fide hero. Eastwood might have failed on his main attempt to land this movie, but the fact he still has an excellent tale on his hand and some excellent actors to depict it with saves the day, big time.
Consider this: How would life feel like to a passenger on board that plane, who, watching from their seat and seeing the river coming in as they were about to crash into it, feel afterwards? I know that I would have been sure this would be the end of my life. Yet everyone came off that plane. Wow!
Overall: Eastwood came very close to ruining this movie, but - by the fluke of having an awesome real life tale and awesome actors at his disposal - managed to still deliver the most memorable movie I have seen in a long while. 4.5 out of 5 crabs, with all credit going to the real life hero after whom this movie was named.