Movie Review: “Sully”

“Sully” chronicles the heroic efforts of US Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger who landed his disabled aircraft successfully in the Hudson River, saving all 155 passengers on board. “Sully” is backed with star power as Tom Hanks plays the protagonist and it is directed by the 86-year-old icon, Clint Eastwood.

Before I give you my views on it, I would like to mention an unnamed movie critic that said this about Eastwood’s “Sully,” – “[Eastwood’s] politics may be unduly coloring his films, and it’s becoming distracting.”

Might I suggest, esteemed critic, that Eastwood’s politics isn’t coloring his movies more than your politics are coloring your idiotic reviews. I hate to even give this lunacy a mention except to say if you find something politically unsettling about “Sully” then you have some serious problems.

“Sully” is exactly the type of movie we, as a country, need at this time. A reminder that there are heroes, real-life heroes, who do extraordinary things which are colored by race, politics, or any of the other issues which so often divide us. It’s a story about a man who simply did his job, and in doing so, saved a lot of lives in the most humblest of ways.

Hanks gives a terrific, understated performance. The mixed feelings, the doubts, the second guesses come across effectively to build the makings of as tense of a human drama as you can make without there actually being a tragedy.

Eastwood’s direction deftly juxtaposes the past and present to show a two-pronged approach to the story, while mixing in just a tad of Sully’s backstory as a boy and Captain fighter pilot.

The two tiered tension is first on the plane and it’s miraculous landing, but the main conflict of the film lies with the NTSB, which while doing its due diligence in investigating the craft, sets up a wedge between itself and Sully, peaking at the dramatic hearings which reveal if Sully was indeed a hero or simply a pilot who made the wrong call at the wrong time.

It’s all right to walk away from a movie feeling inspired once in a while. It’s okay to realize that life isn’t always a disaster, and that there are people who do the miraculous. We call them heroes. And the world is better off because of them. Just ask the other 154 who were on that flight. I think they would agree.

My Kind of Movie: “Bridge of Spies”

Steven Spielberg plus Tom Hanks plus a Cold War thriller based on actual events?

Sign me up in a big way. “Bridge of Spies” is movie-making at its best: human, subtle, gripping, and visually just stunning. It has tremendous, thought-provoking heart, something sorely lacking in most movies these days.

The story follows the case of accused Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance) and the honorable attorney chosen to defend him, James Donovan (Hanks).

It’s a delicate story that  deftly shows the tension between 1950s nuclear hysteria and the most American of all ideals: due process for all. (While watching, one can’t help but ponder the constitutional issues of habeas corpus and due process concerning enemy combatants during the Bush administration. It’s an interesting comparison; one in which the viewer can ultimately decide for themselves how valid it is.)

As Hanks defends Abel successfully, meaning that Abel was not given the death penalty for his espionage and merely a 30-year prison sentence. But when an American spy is captured in Soviet territory, Donovan is called upon again to negotiate the swap between the two – the only problem is that the negotiations will take place in East Berlin behind the newly constructed Berlin Wall.

The movie’s landscape is fascinating. The recreation of the construction of the wall and the remaining WWII destruction in East Berlin a good 12 years after the end of the war hits the viewers hard, as the mild-mannered Donovan has to head into the heart  of the  enemy without escort or assurance.

Spielberg once again shows his mastery of human drama and the small symbolic touches along the way are both lovely and meaningful. Hanks is terrific, and the touching ending was satisfying and emotional, as his kids and wife  come to realize what he had been fighting for and why he put his family in  danger.

The one character I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of was Mark Rylance. He gave an amazing, understated performance. There was so much life behind all the expressions which were greatly restrained. That’s not easily accomplished, but he was extraordinary.

When Hollywood gets it right, go give them your money. This is a wonderful story and important message. I  highly recommend it.