In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “One of the best movies of 2016.”
“Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”
Heroics are what movies are made for. Sure, there’s drama and pathos and catharsis and comedy and a million other things that movies are made for. But big screens, surround sound, movie star charisma and stunning visuals all get the chance to show off and really go for broke when a movie is built around a hero doing something extraordinary.
On the one hand, it was only a matter of time until a movie was made about the real life heroic daring do of pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger. Almost just as inevitable was the fact that he would be played the ultimate everyman, Tom Hanks. With so much seeming so obvious about this movie, the one thing that had me optimistically unsure of what to expect was its director. How would the stripped back, no nonsense story telling and film making of Clint Eastwood translate the possible inspirational schmaltz of a movie like Sully?
The miracle on the Husdon has occurred. After successfully landing their commercial airliner on New York City’s Hudson River, pilots Sully (Hanks) and Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart taking maximum advantage of a glorious moustache) ping pong between the gushing media and almost hostile interrogations from the crash investigators. When not being honoured or grilled by the two groups of interviewers, Sully and Skiles find plenty of time to over think and over analyse their every decisions while sequestered and away from their families in a New York hotel.
From flashbacks to Sully’s days as a military pilot, to reliving the central incident from the perspectives of different characters, to reminders of the ordinary domestic struggles (including Laura Linney as his wife Lorraine) that effected Sully’s life before infamy, to an amazingly effective sense of the surreality that would have been these men’s lives in the fallout, Sully takes a flight that lasted just a little over 200 seconds, and wrings out 90 minutes tense drama and intimate biopic.
Clint Eastwood is one of my favourite directors. Tom Hanks is undeniably one of the best actors of modern cinema. So why am I so surprised by the next sentence I’m about to type. Sully is one of the best movies of 2016 with one of the best performances of 2016. I thought I knew what kind of movie to expect. I’d read and heard a lot of reviews praising Sully and none of the specifics were a surprise. But the finished product still managed to blow me away.
One thing that I didn’t really notice in the moment, but have been thinking about more and more since, is Sully’s lack of antagonist. The crash investigators played by Mike O’Malley and Anna Gunn have their moments of moustache twirling bad guy cliches, but the movie is also very clear that they are doing a job that is very necessary. In the end, it’s a story of people only being able to do something extraordinary, because every single person who could help, stepped up and di hep in their own extraordinary ways. In theory, Sully is pure schmaltz. In the hands of Eastwood and Hanks, it’s corn-free inspiration.
There’s a moment at the end of Captain Philips when shock sets in for the titular character as he starts to raise the magnitude of everything he’s just been through. It’s one of the greatest pieces of acting I’ve ever seen. Hanks gets another moment of that kind of tiny moment with massive implications through nothing more than facial gestures and two or three words when Sully learns that he managed to save every single life on board his plane.
That moment sums up everything that made me love Sully so much. It’s an amazing story, set around an astonishing moment of astounding heroics. But Eastwood, Hanks, Eckhart, Linney and pretty much everyone else who appears on camera makes it so real in the smallest ways, that it’s all the more amazing, astonishing and astounding.