Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 2016. Flashlight Films, Hurwitz Creative, Malpaso Productions, Orange Corp, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, The Kennedy/Marshall Company, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. Cinematography by Tom Stern. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Tim Moore, Allyn Stewart. Music by Christian Jacob, Tierney Sutton Band. Production Design by James J. Murakami. Costume Design by Deborah Hopper. Film Editing by Blu Murray. Academy Awards 2016. National Board of Review Awards 2016. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2016. Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.
Clint Eastwood turns the recent headline-grabbing incident of the “miracle on the Hudson” into an incredibly riveting drama starring Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. A man with decades of experience in the cockpit, in combat situations as well as commercial flying, Sully is close to retirement after a spotless career but has his life turned upside down during takeoff from LaGuardia airport when an unfortunate collision with a flock of birds destroys both engines on his plane. Believing it impossible to return to the airport safely, he and co-pilot Aaron Eckhart opt instead to land on the Hudson river, and despite the danger that this kind of landing, they manage to do so without a single fatality. The headlines declare Sully a hero and the media frenzy is unstoppable: the film’s attempt at mini-biographies of various passengers is unsuccessful and a bit cheesy, but its depiction of how being loved by the public can be as exhausting and traumatic as being hated Is right on point. Unfortunately, worse is to come when Sully’s actions are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, who are looking into all the details of the crash to ascertain if what he did was heroic or reckless. There isn’t a moment wasted in this juicy melodrama, which uses exceptional visual effects to show the event in question in bits and pieces while the post-mortem drama is played out in the main narrative. Hanks is stalwart and sincere and stays completely out of Eastwood’s way, never begging for attention in his performance (despite the presence of a very notable moustache), while Laura Linney gets great drama out of her few moments as his frantic wife (whose entire role is to be upset on the phone). Eastwood’s streamlined style of storytelling goes well with his stubborn lack of irony, there’s an earnest plea being made here for how well America would work if we sticklers for rules would get out of good people’s way, but such mawkish sincerity has rarely been this entertaining and satisfying since the days of Frank Capra.