Film: Sully (2016)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Mike O'Malley
Director: Clint Eastwood
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Sound Editing)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars
It's hard to know what possessed Clint Eastwood, who with this film likely became the oldest person ever to direct a major American motion picture and have it issued in wide release (I've been trying incessantly to figure out if there's someone else that can approach Clint's record, so if there is I'll be beholden to you in the comments if you share it there). After all, this is about as straight-forward of a story as you can imagine coming into a movie theater. Sully Sullenberger accomplished the seemingly impossible, somehow saving the lives of 155 people when his plane was hit by a flock of geese, and then he landed in the middle of January on the Hudson River. It's a fascinating story, one that makes for a harrowing interview with Katie Couric, but hardly one that felt worthy of a ninety minute movie.
At least that was my thought heading into the film, and really where I went with it as the motion picture progressed. The film handles the exact crash with ease, even if the recent Denzel Washington picture Flight, which you'll recall I didn't enjoy, is far more exhilarating in this regard. There are moments when you realize that this is an actual plane, in the middle of the Hudson River, that is slowly but steadily filling with water-you think getting through the crash is the hard part, but now you're on a giant medal bus in the middle of this large body of water-Eastwood does a fine job of keeping what should be a pretty dull series of scenes (since we know everyone survives from the news) sharp and crisp.
Everything else about the film, however, is an utter and embarrassing disaster. That crash is thirty minutes of fine craftsmanlike movie-making, but when Eastwood tries to stretch the film, you can feel it being pulled. This is a ninety minute movie that feels roughly an hour too long. The scenes with the NTSB investigators are appallingly bad, with Eastwood's deep distrust of any sort of government oversight in his own politics creating a cartoonish villainy in these individuals, who approach their jobs as people trying to bring down a hero, even though there's little basis of that in fact. It also serves very little purpose except to make the story a battle between one man's instincts and the government trying to bring him down. I've complained in the past that there needs to be a place for conservative politics at the cinema, and have point-blank stated that American Sniper, with a few tweaks, could have approached such a place and been a superb movie, but Sully lacks any of American Sniper's intrigue or potential-it's just a bad movie.
The dialogue here is deeply hackneyed and clunky. There's a speech late in the film that Anna Gunn gives where you almost feel like at the end of it she should have added, "remember casting directors-I have an Emmy, don't take me off of your rolodex after this before re-watching Breaking Bad). The female characters in the film are so absent that Laura Linney's entire role is her talking into a phone, solidly parodying that Amy Schumer skit (that, it's worth noting, Laura Linney was actually a part of) though here she's simply a wife who is constantly harping on her heroic husband. Literally-she's talking on the phone to Sully for her entire part of the movie. Aaron Eckhart is given little to go with other than a hero worship of Sully, and Tom Hanks, who has been on fire recently with roles in Captain Phillips and Saving Mr. Banks, cannot save this movie even if he's arguably trying to do so. Honestly, this is the worst Clint Eastwood film I've ever seen, and that includes Flags of Our Fathers, which is saying something. Every time I watch one of his recent movies, I re-question my ardent love of Unforgiven and his acting in general.
Those are my thoughts-how about yours? Are you with me that this was a low point for Eastwood, or do you think that he succeeded in bringing Sully Sullenberger to life onscreen? Who else felt this film was a tad bit...unnecessary? And what do you think of its Oscar chances? Share below!