Clint Eastwood’s ‘Sully’ has a rocky take-off, but sticks the landing (review)

 

Clint Eastwood has been a big name in the film industry, and not only as an actor. Yes, he’s portrayed everything from a wild west gunman to a crotchety racist old man, but Eastwood has also made his mark in cinema history by playing another role: director. Ever since 1971, Clint Eastwood has directed close to thirty films, among some of them he’s even starred in. Over the years, Eastwood has won several awards for his directorial efforts, including the Oscar for best director for his 1992 film, Unforgiven, and his Golden Globe award for best director for his 2004 film, Million Dollar Baby. One of the director’s iconic trademark has always been biopics, and that goes the same for his upcoming 2016 biopic film, Sully.

The story is a courageous tale of heroism and American patriotism. On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain, Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed “Sully” (portrayed by Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.

The film is a good film. Not a great film, but a good film. Now, before you start spouting off things like “unpatriotic” and “over critical,” let me give you my thoughts, and then you can grill me. Sully is a well-paced and well-conceived story, even though its roots are based in truth. There’s not much you can do to restructure a story based in truth, but what you can do is take a historic event, and lay the facts out in a compelling and thought-provoking way. And that’s exactly what Eastwood did with this story. He didn’t waste any time in the film by creating moments of self-induced psychosomatic trips of guilt and shame for the main character, or overused a cinematic score in every scene possible. Eastwood’s approach for this film was simple: go minimal, and let the story sell itself. And it does! The story is a very familiar working-class-hero journey through the depths, and emerges in the end victorious. Much like his more recent previous directorial projects, Eastwood pries himself in not allowing the viewers to see everything right away, as this film begins with a dream sequence of the landing ending badly. His reservations of only giving glimpses of the actual incident sprinkled throughout the film build enough anticipation for moviegoers to finally become satiated once the sequence, as a whole, is revealed towards the end of the film. As I said, his pacing was perfect in this film.

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I’m a huge fan of the ’80s. If you go through some of my previous articles, you’ll note that this is something I’ve stated several times over. I mention this because, oddly, Tom Hanks was a kind of a big deal during that era. His first big on-screen break was a small horror film in 1980 called He Knows You’re Alone, and from that moment forward, Tom Hanks became a household name. From Splash to Bachelor Party, Dragnet to Turner & Hooch, even my favorite films of his, The ‘Burbs and Big, Hanks was a very busy man during the ’80s. One thing that he was always known for was his loud and expressive reactions to things, whether by yelling at the top of his lungs in disgust, or his raspy exasperated laugh in times of joy. So it came as a shock to me, realizing early on in the film, that the Tom Hanks I was going to see during this film was not the Tom Hanks I grew up with, and I was worried a bit, to be honest. What is Tom Hanks without his wildly outlandish expressions (WILSON!!)? Well, I can safely say that those worries are quickly quelled, as this quiet yet determined performance from Hanks is absolutely powerful. His ability to channel his emotions- at times- whether through his eyes, or his body language, spoke volumes, and gave the credence to Hanks’ acting spectrum. I never thought I would be able to see a performance like this from Tom Hanks, but he nails it, and then some. His co-star, Aaron Eckhart, portrays his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Eckhart is written so well for the role that the chemistry between the two stars shine brightly. Eckhart’s ability to diffuse an awkward moment or break a tense and monotonous scene is spot on, and very necessary for the film’s story progression.

I love the works of Hans Zimmer. His scores are breathtaking, and his ability to compose thematic pieces still befuddle me. Although he’s received flack in the last decade or so for possibly reusing tracks from Pirates of the Caribbean to other works, I still think that he is, without a doubt one of the best composers of our time. Now, Hans Zimmer is not the composer for the film. I know I went all fan-dork a bit ago talking about him, but there’s a reason. I think the world of Zimmer, but anything outside of what was done in terms of the score in the film would have killed the story. The scenes weren’t marked by loud in-your-face scores, and they definitely weren’t over the top orchestrated pieces that made you feel like you were at a concert. The film worked so well, with the minimalist mindset, that even the score was on board with it. The scene’s tone wasn’t set by the music, but rather the music came in exactly at a tonal shift, giving a foundation to the efforts of Hanks and his performance. The subtle insert of piano keys, or the light entry of strings, gave audiences a physical marker to make them aware of a shift in the tone of a scene, and was used with precision and care.

The film, sadly, did have a rough start to it. The story does take its time in the beginning to get going, taking a bit too much time in-between scenes, but once you get past the first act, and it begins to pick up, you suddenly find yourself engrossed in the story. Overall, the film is a good entry into Eastwood’s repertoire, and an excellent homage to the patriotic heart and spirit of America. The film, based on true events, will have you on the edge of your seats, and will have you rejoicing in your heart.

Rating: 3.5/5

NR 3_5 Atoms - B-

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