Posted Oct 31 2016

Sully - This Movie Rocks The Lean, Mean, Makes Us Keen

Dir: Clint Eastwood

Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan, Mike O'Malley

Boy, is this tight! When was the last time you saw a movie boasting A-list talent in front and behind the camera that came in at 96 minutes? Normally in this day and age, such a slim running time is a sign of ruthless reediting and quiet desperation. But here it is an example of a master filmmaker who knows lean better than most.

Sully is the true story of US Airlines pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who landed a plane on the Hudson River in January of 2009, and ensured everyone on board got out alive. We know that story as Sully the hero; Eastwood’s movie focuses on the story behind the story, that of the airline and, more importantly the insurance company, and their attempts to defame said hero.

Sully does, at its most basic, that great thing that certain movies do – think Argo for example – you know the events. But still your arse is constantly on the edge of your seat. Eastwood opens his film brilliantly – dialogue is there over the Warner Bros sign - and actions soon grip you completely. And then he takes the left turn the plane never could, and digs forensically into what happened in a very smartly structured revealing of events.

What the director of numerous westerns is doing here is presenting an image not of a flawed man, but a man full of self-doubt, a reluctant hero just doing what he had to do. (A man’s gotta do what…you know the rest.) It’s a character that Eastwood has played around with many times, for better or worse. (Even the estimable Unforgiven comes to mind - albeit in a different key.)

More than anything, Eastwood delivers a film that invokes our fears, our worries, certainly, and our empathy, and throws in knuckle-ride FX moments, but grounds them in beautifully strong performances. Laura Linney has the thankless task of  - literally – delivering her entire performance over the phone, but makes it one of the best things she’s ever done; Aaron Eckhart meanwhile atones for all the pap he’s made recently. And, as ever with an Eastwood film, he populates the background characters with seasoned, talented performers who rarely get the moments he gives them here, if only briefly.

Which leaves us with his American hero, played here by his American hero, being directed by yet another American hero – and boy, what a difference a week or two makes. Having recently seen Hanks going through the motions (and only just going through them) in Inferno, Sully reminds us of all that is great about the divine Mr Hanks. He nails it here –and Eastwood is the hammer than knocks it in. This is last-five-minutes-of-Captain Phillips-good and we would have absolutely no problem with the man’s nomination. And even less with him walking away with a third-time golden statuette.

But as good as his lead actor is, this is a beautiful example of the kind of filmmaker Eastwood can be, the kind who learned (and learned well) from the likes of Don Siegel, the kind who knows less is more, that less is often a hell of a lot more.

Sully is efficient, elegant, tight, right, moving, glorious. One of the best movies Eastwood has ever made as a director –take a minute and absorb what we just said.


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