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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 10, 2016

Sully Movie Review: Superior Film Making From Start To Finish From Master Director Clint Eastwood

FROM BEING a TV cowboy in “Rawhide” to a big action star in “Dirty Harry”, who would have thought that Clint Eastwood would be one of the most competent American filmmakers ever, gaining acclaim for such works as “Unforgiven”, “Mystic River”, “Million Dollar Baby” and “American Sniper”. The iconic living legend is now 86 years old and remains to be very prolific. He has just directed another splendid film, “Sully”.

No, it’s not the solo flick of the cute monster from “Monsters Inc”, but the real life story of pilot Chesley Sullenberger or Sully, who showed grace under pressure when he successfully maneuvered the U.S. Airways Flight 1549 plane land on water on the freezing waters of the Hudson River in 2009. This hit the headlines all around the world and was hailed as The Miracle on the Hudson. The Airbus was on its way to Charlotte from La Guardia Airport when a flock of birds ran smack into it and destroyed its engines.

The film is a much deserved tribute to the amazing professionalism of Sully, his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), their flight attendants who kept reminding the passengers to “brace brace brace, don’t look up”, the air traffic control personnel and all the ferryboat and police rescuers who quickly came to save all the 155 passengers in the fast sinking airplane. At the end credits, the real Sully and the real passengers were shown in a reunion. We didn’t cry in “Train to Busan” but here, we were not able to hold back our tears because we know it REALLY HAPPENED!

Hanks gives another winning true to life portrayal (he was also good in a real life role in “Bridge of Spies” and “Captain Phillips”) as the cool and reassuring expert pilot. He sports snow white hair and moustache to look like the real Sully. His performance here as the calm and poker faced pilot is in complete contrast to his emotional and weepy portrayal of “Captain Phillips”. But we never doubted he’d succeed in bringing the crippled Airbus to safety because, after all, wasn’t he similarly successful in accomplishing an even tougher job in “Apollo 13”?

What’s so nice about the movie is the way it was imaginatively structured by scriptwriter Todd Komarnicki and masterfully directed by Pareng Clint who certainly displays his wisdom and skills as an astonishing story teller who knows how to make it all gripping for his viewers from start to finish. And what’s even nicer is that they manage to tell it all with surprising brevity at only one hour and a half running time.

We first see Sully being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) whose stern members are conducting an inquiry for the airlines and their insurance companies. They are very antagonistic toward him, questioning his competence as an experienced pilot. They even suggest that he must be having trouble at home and his marriage, so he made the wrong decisions. They insist that computer aircraft simulations have proven that his plane could have safely returned to La Guardia Airport. Then, the actual crash is shown in flashbacks.

As Sully says, it’s not a crash “but a forced water landing.” We watched the movie at SM IMAX and that scene where the plane crashes on the water facing the camera is truly and spectacularly unnerving. This makes us understand why Sully is shown haunted by nightmarish visions about a plane that is seen crashing through the tall skyscrapers of Manhattan the days following his own airplane’s water landing. Had he not followed his instincts, the result would have been a bigger disaster with more casualties.

In the film’s climactic final investigation hearing, the crash is then replayed from the plane’s cockpit, the control tower, the cabin, as heard from the plane’s voice recorder. This is where it becomes clear that it’s Sully’s quick thinking in a matter of life or death situation that saved the day. He said he just felt the plane going. And how did he make the landing choice? His reply: “I eyeballed it.”

The inspiring film also shows how Sully was instantly treated as an instant hero and celebrity. Women hug him while drivers and bartenders say it’s an honor to be with him, but it doesn’t go into the head of the reluctant hero, what with the NTSB questioning and doubting his efficiency. His own wife (Laura Linney) is at a loss as to how to handle what happened and also the media people who want to interview them. It’s when Sully, during the final hearing, argues to the board to give consideration to the intangible human element where simple people have to make life-turning decision under extreme pressure, that he becomes even more admirable. It’s superior film making all the way and no one should miss it.