Friday, September 9, 2016

Sully Review

Monsters, Inc. spin-off following John Goodman's lovable character Sulley? I obviously knew this wasn't the case because I follow Pixar closely enough to know what movies they are planning and this wasn't one of them, but I can't be the only one to think that when I first saw this on the schedule at the beginning of the year. Although with how Monsters University turned out, perhaps it's a good thing that this isn't the case. Pixar is typically at their best when they stick with original films. But alas, I digress. This is not about James P. Sullivan from Monsters, Inc. This is about Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberg, the pilot behind the miracle of the Hudson. It's not very often you hear a story about a plane landing in a body of water and everyone surviving. So yeah, this news story stuck with ever since I first heard about it in 2009. My reaction when I first realized that this Sully movie was about that event was probably the same as everyone else's. How are they going to turn that into a movie? And one that is enjoyable to watch? I mean, this was an incredible event, but what is there to say about this event that we all didn't see on the news? How are they going to make it suspenseful and interesting when we know how things end? I wasn't nervous about this, but I was very curious.

The legendary Clint Eastwood was the man behind the camera here and he recruited one of the all-time greatest actors to play Sully, that of Tom Hanks. The trailers looked great and the movie promised us that it was going to tell the untold story behind the miracle on the Hudson. So I was confident. But I still had a lot of questions. And despite how amazing Clint Eastwood is in front of the camera as an actor, behind the camera he doesn't exactly have a clean track record. He didn't direct, but he did help produce one of the worst baseball movies I have ever seen in Trouble with the Curve. I was personally split with American Sniper. There were a lot of amazing moments in that movie, but also a lot of cringe-worthy moments as well. I also haven't seen J. Edgar or Jersey Boys, but I know people who outright hate those movies. So yeah, I had a lot of questions. But holy cow was I pleasantly surprised. This movie really isn't about the miracle on the Hudson. I mean, that's obviously the central event in the movie. But the movie is more about Sully himself and how he reacted to everything instead of being about the event itself and that was fascinating. Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks combined their amazing talents to deliver us a beautiful film.

After seeing this movie, I am convinced now more than ever that Sully is a true American hero. This is something that I wasn't fully aware of before this movie. I know he had done a heroic act and saved 155 lives, but I wasn't aware of how amazing this man truly is until seeing this movie. Much to my surprise, this movie doesn't start out before the flight like I thought it would. It starts after the flight is over. I did not see that coming, but I loved it. We all know what happened on the miracle of the Hudson and it was obvious that Clint Eastwood was not simply trying to re-tell these events, so by starting this movie after things already happened, the tone is set for this being about Sully. This is a man that had been a pilot for over 40 years. His goal with each flight was to do his job. Get people from point A to point B safely. He was a humble man. He had high character. And because of a freak accident where he ran into a flock of geese and had to do an emergency landing, he became a worldwide hero over night. How did he react to this instant fame? He didn't like it. It was too much for him. He didn't like the attention. On top of that, an investigation was started by the NTSB that was questioning if he had done the right thing or if he instead had endangered all those lives.

That's where this movie gets really interesting. The NTSB are essentially painted as the villains in the movie. Sully has just landed a plane in the Hudson, saved 155 lives, and has become an American hero. Yet they come out and start interrogating him, saying that he could've made it back to LaGuardia Airport safely, that one of the engines might've actually been fine, that he put 155 people in danger unnecessarily, and stuff like this. They ask him if he'd been drinking, what his frame of mind was, and what his personal life was like. These guys were mean. Apparently the real NTSB aren't super happy about this portrayal of them. They claim they were just doing an honest investigation in order to ensure the safety of the passengers in the future, which makes sense. But oh well. This is what made the movie intense. I knew about the miracle on the Hudson. I did not know about the investigation afterwards. Suddenly I started to honestly question this situation. Did he make the right decision or did he screw up? If he did screw up, how much can we blame can we put on him and how much can we write off to human error? I really appreciated this aspect of the movie because one of my big questions going in was how were they going to make this a good movie when it seems like most people remember the events in the news fairly well? This is how. I won't spoil much of how it turns out, but I was very pleased with how this movie ended up.

Up to this point, I have made it seem like this movie is all about the events after the miracle on the Hudson. Yes, that's the focus of this movie and yes, I did enjoy that. But the actual plane crash into the Hudson is in fact in the movie. We just tell things out of chronological order, which is something I really enjoyed. Instead of going straight through the timeline, we bounce around a bit and in this instance I think it enhances the movie. The crash scene is inserted at the right moment. It's even shown a few different times from different perspectives. And yes, everyone's been using this comparison, but it's a good one. These crash sequences reminded me a lot of United 93. If you haven't seen that me, please go do so. Especially since the 15th anniversary of 9/11 is this weekend. Sully obviously has the exact opposite outcome and the flight time was a heck of a lot faster. They crashed into the birds shortly after takeoff and the whole sequence was only 208 seconds or something like that. But the sequences do have a similar feel to United 93 in how intense they get, how well the scenes are shot, how good the visual effects are, and how personal it gets with the individual passengers that really makes you care about them. It was beautiful and intense. I didn't see this in IMAX, but I do hear that it's pretty dang good in IMAX, so that's worth noting.

And of course I can't leave without talking about the man, the myth, and the legend in this movie. He's Forest Gump. He's Woody. He's Captain Miller. He's Chuck Noland. He's Robert Langdon. He's Captain Phillips. He's Walt Disney. He's James Donovan. And now he's Sully. He's been in so many good movies. He disappears into every role he's in. He also puts 110 percent effort into everything. He's been acting my whole life. He's been nominated for five Oscars, winning back to back in 94 and 95. He's one of the best actors working today and one of the best actors of all time. He's Tom Hanks. When it comes to a Tom Hanks movie, you come to expect perfection. And the great thing about him is that you get perfection. Every time. It should go without saying that Tom Hanks does a great job in this movie. But I'm going to say it anyways. He does such a great job playing this down-to-earth, humble captain who doesn't want any of the attention that he's getting and is having a lot of emotional struggles dealing with all of this on top of the investigation that's going on. He gives one of my favorite performances of the year so far and I think it is time for a sixth Oscar nomination for Mr. Hanks. After not getting nominated for Captain Phillips or Bridge of Spies, it's probably time.

Overall, I was anticipating this movie. It looked like it was going to be a winner, but given the subject matter, I still had a lot of questions about how certain specifics of this movie were going to play out and thus I was very pleasantly surprised to learn exactly how good this movie was. Yes, the miracle of the Hudson is a very familiar story, but the fact that this movie focuses on the aftermath of the incident and the ensuing investigation, I learned that there's a lot to this story that I was unaware of and I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the personal experiences that Sully went through because of this. There was a lot of drama and a lot of honest tension that kept me fully invested in the movie throughout. The movie is carried by yet another phenomenal performance from Tom Hanks as well as a great direction from the legendary Clint Eastwood. The supporting cast around Hanks also did a good job, this led by a great performance from Aaron Eckhart. When we did get to the actual crash landing on the Hudson, those scenes were great and intense. I loved how the story was told out of chronological order. I think that enhanced the experience. Overall a great movie. If we're calling this our official fall kick-off film, we're off to a great start. I'm going to give Sully a 9/10.

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