SULLY (2016) – Remarkable Story, Exceptional Movie

0

sully

SULLY (2016) has a remarkable story to tell, so even if it were just a mediocre movie, it would still be worth seeing due to the strength of its story.  The good news is SULLY is more than just a mediocre movie:  it’s an impeccably made film by director Clint Eastwood, and it features yet another superb performance by Tom Hanks, which means that simply put, SULLY is  an exceptional movie, one that you should definitely see at the theater.

SULLY tells the incredible true story of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” which occurred on January 15, 2009 when airline Captain Chesley Sullenberger guided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, a forced landing in which all 155 people on board, passengers and crew, survived.

Sully (Tom Hanks) becomes an instant hero.  Yet, the airline and its insurance company are none too happy that one of their planes ended up in the Hudson River.  In fact, their computer simulations show that the plane could have made it to two airports.  They believe Sully erred in his decision to land the plane on the water.  Of course, Sully disagrees, saying it’s his belief that there was no way they would have made it to an airport.  He did the only thing he could do.

Suddenly Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are the subjects of a massive investigation into the forced landing, putting their reputations on the line, and in Sully’s case, making him second guess himself, fearing that perhaps he made a mistake and put the lives of the 155 people on board in jeopardy.

There are many fine things about SULLY.

To begin with, it has an excellent script by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book  “Highest Duty” by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.  It makes the wise choice of not telling its tale in chronological order.  Had it done so, the movie would have featured the exciting forced landing first, leaving the anti-climactic and dialogue-driven investigation to follow.  When SULLY opens, the forced landing has already happened, and the movie dives right into the investigation.  The landing is shown via flashbacks.

The dialogue is first-rate, and there are plenty of memorable lines, like when an official congratulates Sully and tells him that New York hasn’t had much good news lately, especially with stories involving airplanes.

What can you say about director Clint Eastwood at this point?  Eastwood is 86 years old, and the fact that at his age he’s still directing and sometimes acting in movies is incredible.  And he’s not only making movies, but he’s making quality movies!  Before SULLY, he directed AMERICAN SNIPER (2014), one of the best movies of that year.  SULLY is one of the best movies of this year.

For years, starting in the 1960s, Eastwood was the best action star on the planet.  In 1992, he won an Oscar for Best Director for UNFORGIVEN (1992), a film that also won Best Picture that year, in what many at the time considered to be Eastwood’s swan song.  Eastwood was 62.  Since then, Eastwood has gone on to direct one quality movie after another.  Sure, he’s had some misfires along the way— HEREAFTER  (2010), for example— but for the most part his films have been phenomenal.  His last two movies AMERICAN SNIPER and JERSEY BOYS (2014) were both among my favorite films of 2014.  And I can’t stress this enough:  Eastwood is 86 years old.  It’s quite possible that when his career is over, he might be remembered more for being one of Hollywood’s greatest directors than one of its greatest action stars.

Eastwood does a phenomenal job here with SULLY.  The high energy behind this movie is not what you expect from a director pushing 90.  AMERICAN SNIPER may be the more impressive of the two films, because it had a more complicated story to tell, whereas SULLY just on the strength of its story alone promises to be a crowd pleaser.

But Eastwood uses his talents behind the camera to make this movie even better.  The investigation scenes have Eastwood’s stamp all over them.  Indeed, you can trace the theme here all the way back to Eastwood’s iconic actioner DIRTY HARRY (1971), which of course he only starred in, but Eastwood embraced Harry Callahan’s law-in-your-own-hands anti-burearacy philosophy as his own, and it would show up in future Dirty Harry films and other Eastwood projects.

You can see it here in SULLY.  Aaron Eckhart’s Jeff Skiles tells his best friend Sully that the airline should be praising Sully— everyone survived!— not investigating him.  But that’s not enough for the airline.  Their plane ended up in the river, and in their eyes, that’s something that should not have happened.  Sure, no one died, but everyone’s life was put in jeopardy.  In Eastwood’s vision, this way of thinking is insanely ridiculous.

Eastwood also makes wise creative choices.  The forced landing is shown twice.  The first time we see it from different perspectives, including from the air traffic controllers who are desperately trying to convince Sully to head to an airport.  But the second time it’s shown in real time and never leaves the cockpit and so we see Sully and co-pilot Skiles deal with the situation as it happens.

Both sequences are incredibly intense, and they provide some of the best cinematic moments of the year.

And both Eastwood and the script take full advantage of our emotions.  We follow a few of the passengers specifically, including a man flying with his two adult sons, and after the landing, they are separated.  Later, once they find each other, one of the sons exclaims, “Can you believe this?  We crashed!  And we all survived!”  It’s the perfect sentiment as it is what everyone in the audience is thinking.

The sequence after the crash, when everyone is in the water, waiting to be rescued by the oncoming ferryboats and New York rescue crews is also intense because the water is icy cold and the rescuers only have minutes to work with.  Later, Aaron Eckhart’s Skiles declares, “I’ve never been happier to be in New York!”

Tom Hanks is superb as Sully.  The best part of his performance is the self-doubt he puts himself through, wondering if perhaps his instincts were wrong.  Hanks also shows how important duty is to Sully.  Once they land in the water, he makes sure he’s the last one off the plane, that everyone has gotten off, and he doesn’t relax until he knows for sure that no one has died.  The moment the news is relayed to him that all 155 people on board have been accounted for is one of the more emotional moments in the movie.

Like Eastwood and his previous film, AMERICAN SNIPER, Hanks in his previous movie BRIDGE OF SPIES (2015) may have had a more challenging assignment in that he played a more complicated character.  But as Sully, Hanks is excellent.  It’s another terrific peformance by the very talented actor.

Aaron Eckhart is also memorable as co-pilot Jeff Skiles.  And the rest of the cast, in smaller roles, are all solid.

The past few weeks have seen the release of some outstanding movies, like the critically acclaimed HELL OR HIGH WATER (2016), and the under-the-radar HANDS OF STONE (2016).  SULLY is right up there with these gems, perhaps even the best of the bunch.

It’s certainly the most inspiring and emotionally satisfying.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE – Perfect for Lazy Summer Afternoon

0

Trouble With The CurveBlu-Ray Review:  TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012)

By

Michael Arruda

What do baseball and Clint Eastwood have in common?

They’re both slow.

Ouch!

Even so, at 83, Eastwood can still carry a movie, although in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012), now available on Blu-ray, he doesn’t have to, as he receives fine support from co-star Amy Adams who delivers a sensational performance.

In TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012), Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is an aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves.  While his immediate supervisor Pete (John Goodman) has his back, fellow scout Philip (Matthew Lillard) has the ear of the Braves’ general manager, Vince (Robert Patrick).  Philip seems to believe that Gus is too old to do his job well anymore, and he’s pushing for Vince not to renew the octogenarian’s contract.  But Pete goes to bat for his buddy and arranges for Gus to scout the Braves’ top prospect, a slugger named Bo Gentry (Joe Massingill).

However, when Pete discovers that Gus is losing his eyesight, he asks Gus’ adult daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to check in on him.  Spending time with her father is the last thing Mickey wants to do.  She has spent her life trying to get to know him without success.  Plus, she’s a successful lawyer about to become partner at her firm, so she really can’t take the time off, but Pete tells her that Gus is in danger of losing his job.

Against her better judgment, and against her dad’s wishes, Mickey decides to put her life on hold and join her father as he scouts the Braves’ top hitting prospect.  While there, she meets Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former pitcher who Gus had scouted years before.  Johnny now works for the Red Sox and is there scouting Bo Gentry as well.

While Mickey and Johnny develop feelings for each other, Gus advises the Braves to pass on slugger Bo because he can’t hit a curve ball, but Philip feels otherwise and tells his general manager that he shouldn’t listen to an aging scout like Gus, and that if he passes on Bo, he’ll be passing on the future of the team.

And when Gus’ failing eyesight comes to light, it looks as if his career as a scout is done, but Mickey goes to bat for her father and comes up with a plan to save the day.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is a very satisfying baseball movie, driven along by two excellent performances, by Clint Eastwood and by Amy Adams, and by an affable story that is perfect for a lazy summer day.

Clint Eastwood is perfect as Gus Lobel, a man who has spent his life around the game of baseball.  He’s a crusty old-timer who’s losing his eyesight.  He grumbles and swears when he trips over things, but when he burns his food he jokes about it.  When he misjudges traffic and gets himself injured in a car accident, he shrugs it off.  His life and his passion is baseball, and as long as he’s around the game, he’s content.

As good as Eastwood is, it’s Amy Adams who delivers the best performance in the movie as Mickey, Gus’ daughter.  When we first see her, she’s a powerhouse attorney, but when she joins her dad at the ball park, the truth about her character surfaces.  Like her father, she lives and breathes baseball.  She loves the sport, and she’s more knowledgeable about it than Gus.  A running gag in the movie has Johnny constantly trying to stump her with baseball trivia, but she always knows the answers.

I liked Adams here even better than in her Oscar nominated role in THE FIGHTER (2010).  She’s actually been nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role four times, but she has yet to win.  She had me hooked in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE.  As Mickey she’s feisty, knowledgeable, passionate, and ultimately very likeable.  I found her love of baseball infectious.

Justin Timberlake is likeable as Johnny, the young scout who has hopes of getting a job in the broadcast booth for the Boston Red Sox.  He’s the kind of guy Gus easily sees as a good match for his daughter.

And in a more subtle performance than his recent over the top roles in ARGO (2012), FLIGHT (2012) and THE HANGOVER PART III (2013), John Goodman plays it straight here as Gus’ friend and supervisor Pete.  Goodman’s Pete is a loyal buddy, a guy you’d definitely want watching your back.

The screenplay by Randy Brown tells a likeable story, and you’ll be pulling for Gus to be right about his instincts and keep his job.  There is a dark revelation towards the end, explaining why Gus felt the need to send Mickey away when she was a child, and why he felt he was failing her as a parent, but this melancholy plot point is overshadowed by a happy ending which was far too syrupy sweet for my tastes.  I didn’t find Mickey’s discovery at the end of the movie all that believable.

Director Robert Lorenz gives TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE a nice baseball feel, and he matches the deliberate pace of the movie with the sluggish pace of a baseball game.  It’s not going to win any awards for the fastest paced movie of the year.  Lorenz also captures what it feels like to be a baseball scout.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE is not the most exciting movie going, and its happy finale where all the loose ends come together gift wrapped in the final act is right out of a Frank Capra movie, and as such is a little too old-fashioned for my tastes.

Yet, like a baseball game in the middle of summer, it provides enough diversion to pass a sultry afternoon.

Pass the peanuts, please.

—END—

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.