Most filmmakers begin second-guessing themselves when they hit anything close to 80, or worse their work starts to decline. Master filmmakers like Bergman and Kurosawa made their last films in their 80’s and they paled in comparison to their best work. Yet at 86 Clint Eastwood continues to endure and his work is just as solid as it was twelve years ago with Million Dollar Baby or twenty-four years ago with Unforgiven.
Sully, his 35th film behind the camera follows in the path of his previous films American Sniper, J. Edgar and The Flags of Our Fathers, in the sense that it feels like a tribute to someone who qualifies as an American hero in Eastwood’s eyes. Now, Clint is known for often being controversial and at times blatantly jingoistic. Especially when you look at something like American Sniper, where he tried to make a hero out of a sadistic, cold-blooded killer in Chris Kyle. And that’s where his films often lose me. But in the case of Sully, there’s nothing of that sort in the source-material. It’s really solid, well-crafted, engaging and never overstays it’s welcome at 96 minutes. And in this case his tribute to an American hero truly feels earned.
Based on the remarkable true story of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, when on January of 2009, US Airways pilot Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River, after an influx of birds knocked out both the plane’s engines. The film draws on Sullenberger’s autobiography, interspersing bits of his life story with two major strands: a real-time recreation of the flight, landing, and rescue, and the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into whether Sully acted properly in landing the plane in the river.
Tom Hanks absolutely nails it as Captain “Sully” Sullenberger. In many ways, his sturdy and well-grounded performance reminds me of his turns in last year’s Bridge of Spies and 2013’s Captain Phillips, in which he played similarly average joes who found themselves at odds with an increasingly tough situations. And it definitely helps that Aaron Eckhart is there to provide some great support as Sully’s right-hand man and co-pilot Jeff Skilling. Eastwood is equally solid behind the camera. I don’t think he can do any wrong from a technical stand-point at this point in his career.
I’m not sure if I have much more to say about this film or that I have any problems with it. Yes, the post-9/11 imagery feels a little forced, but it is too minor of a nitpick to be counted as a genuine problem. I also admire the fact that Eastwood does manage to find some genuine drama in the NTSB investigation. All in all, it’s a solid film that’s almost always engaging and also happens to be a great ode to professionalism and ordinary heroism.
Also, I’d just like to express my gratitude to all of you who take the time to read my posts and comment and have done so ever since I started this blog. It really means alot. The Blazing Reel is going on two years and I truly would not have had the motivation to write if it wasn’t for you all. I don’t always have the time to write much these days or visit all of your great blogs, but I do what I can and I’m truly humbled at the support you all have given. Thanks a bunch!