Tom Hanks is still the king of (extra) ordinary.
The story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his heroic flight are well-worn. What ground or air is left for Clint Eastwood to cover?
Eastwood is adept at storytelling in segments (check Letters from Iwo Jima). In various flashback to the landing, details are withheld. With every flashback of flight 1549, another layer of the event is revealed. Mixing details in some flashbacks and some in others makes the ending satisfactory. Eastwood’s talent, much like American Sniper, is putting his audience within the action. We feel we are in the cabin with Sully. We feel like pilots. And we like to feel like we are helping him land safely.
Tom Hanks as the title role is in his typical performance. His element. Restrained. Patient. Psychological. Unawarely charismatic. . What happens when an ordinary man is compelled by extraordinary events? Tom Hanks happens. Not since Jimmy Stewart has an actor so honed this role.
In previous years, Hanks has been passed over for an Oscar nod, Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Philips, Bridge of Spies. He may well be passed over again. It is still early in the Oscar season. In two of those films his co-stars received the nod, Barkhad Abdi and Mark Rylance. Aaron Eckhart may be the third. He has never received a nod……wth……Academy?……do any of you smoke? Eckhart as the rarely remembered, Jeff Skiles, gives a quiet juggernaut of a performance. He is the sideman. Seen, but not heard. There, but never noticed. Eckhart gives an impact on a story, which gestures to say how little impact he has (though we all know that is not true). While Sully is the reluctant hero, Skiles is the unacknowledged. The two pilots forever locked in one flight.
I could have done without Sully’s interactions with Mrs. Sullenberger (Laura Linny). For a well written film. A restrained film. Linny’s screen time is overly dramatic and rarely anymore helpful than as a plot device to get to the next plane scene. Her dialog feels rushed. Her dramatic callings to Sully run against the mood of the picture. Her moments are cartoonish. Linny’s appearances seem to be afterthoughts. They appear to be forced. As if Eastwood and co suddenly remembered that Sully had a wife, and had to find some way to sneak her in.
Eastwood’s handling of the NTSB hearings appears heavy handed. It feels like manufactured Hollywood drama. It is Hollywood manufactured drama, and unfair to the NTSB. Because you know, through their decades of conducting crash investigations, none of them know how to do a proper investigation or flight simulations………riiiighhhhhhhhht. Hard to believe. That thin belief hurts the integrity of the film.
Sully overall is another solid Eastwood film. It won’t contend for Best Picture, as American Sniper did, but it will appeal for a couple of acting nods. Tom Hanks……….a bosom buddy…….going for a splash…..Aaron Eckhart……waits for a Dark Knight……..while reading a Rum Diary……….on Any Given Sunday. Once again, Thank you for Smoking.
Check out my previous review of The Birth of a Nation