Directed by Clint Eastwood

sullyplaneI’m not the best flyer, so I was putting off seeing this as long as I could. But I wanted to see it in a theater before it disappeared in the maelstrom of Christmas releases. Imagine my surprise when I left the theater feeling MORE confident about flying rather than more terrified. And…that ends the positive part of this review.

Jesus, what was the point of this film? It doesn’t come to a dramatic close so much as stops. Not one actor in the film is given anything to do of any substance. And worst of all, it really comes across as a really expensive anti-government, History channel-caliber middle finger from an ultra-right wing, cranky old man.

Eastwood, in a film he wrote, as well as directed, makes his anti-governmental agency bias so well-known that it utterly strains belief. To think that the NTSB and FAA were on some sort of witch hunt in the days after the incident, certainly to the extent that this film would have you believe, is truly laugh-out-loud funny. Aided by Anna Gunn, Mike O’Malley and Jamey Sheridan behaving like CIA interrogators at Gitmo, Eastwood wants us to walk out of there thinking governmental oversight is a gestapo tactic. The explanation for this choice, that I’ve read elsewhere, is that he needed to find an antagonist somewhere in the story, so he came up with that. But you have Tom Hanks and, oh by the way, the greatest feat of piloting in the airliner era. Can he not be his own antagonist? And can’t the flight itself be dramatic enough?! Ugh.

The rest of the story is merely dross, even though we’re supposed to believe its importance…Sully’s newly generated PTSD, unspoken “history”, problems at home that are visited early but never heard from again and his desperate fight to save his name…go nowhere. With SEVERAL scenes of Hanks inexplicably jogging around a frigid midtown NYC…the film could have literally been told in sixty minutes and we would not have missed a thing.

On the PLUS side, I’d be remiss NOT to mention the photography and effects, however. They are extraordinary, and if you don’t mind cool stuff for cool stuff’s sake, then it’s worth watching. You will absolutely believe you are witnessing the landing in real time. A wonder.

Also, there is an actor I’d not heard of before, named Patch Darragh, who plays the shlimazel air traffic controller whose lap the flight falls in to. He’s terrific in one of the few well-written and believable scenes in the film.

This is another film that is inexplicably getting a lot of mention for awards. But like “Hacksaw”, I just don’t understand it. No one and nothing associated with this film, other than technicians, belongs in the conversation with films like “Hell or High Water”, or any one of a number of other films.

Sully may have avoided disaster on January 15th, 2009, but Clint Eastwood couldn’t.

Written on 12/15/2016

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