Thursday, September 15, 2016


                                   Playing Yo-Yo with the Red Carpet

                                                          Review by Ken Burke

Take care, curious readers, for plot spoilers gallop rampantly throughout the Two Guys’ insightful reviews.  Therefore, be warned, beware, and read on when you’re ready to be transported to … wherever we end up.  Please protect your eyes from the dazzling brilliance.
                                                          Sully (Clint Eastwood)
Another of Hollywood’s current favorite flavor, “based on true events,” this docudrama recounts the “miracle on the Hudson” landing of a disabled airliner captained by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, seemingly set for doom when both engines were knocked out by a flock of geese shortly after takeoff but the real drama comes later with the NTSB investigation.
What Happens: Right off the bat after the opening credits we have reason to think we’re already in this film’s most dramatic segment as a jet airliner is in the skies over NYC, but then we’re shocked to see it crashing into Manhattan.  Quickly, we understand this scene's a nightmare of US Airways pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger III* (Tom Hanks); then, after a jogging scene where he’s almost hit by a cab when starting across a street because he’s so deep in his agonizing thought, followed by another one where he’s in a hotel room watching a newscast as people say “Thank you, Captain!” we realize that present time in this story comes after the dramatic events of January 15, 2009 when he led an emergency landing (along with First Officer Jeffery Skiles [Aaron Eckhart]) of Flight 1549 on the Hudson River when both engines were knocked out of commission by the sudden collision with a flock of geese soon after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport on the way to Charlotte, NC.**  Despite Sully hailed as a hero (along with having to constantly fight through throngs of reporters every time he emerges during daylight hours from his hotel, a fate also being suffered back home in Danville, CA [San Francisco East Bay area] by his wife, Lorraine [Laura Linney] as TV crews camp out at their home, distressing her enough on her own, only to be further weighed down by Sully’s troubled phone calls), this pilot with 4 decades of honorable-experience (at times we get flashbacks of his early training in an old biplane, then a military exercise where he successfully lands a damaged fighter jet) is presented (as is co-pilot Skiles) as essentially being on trial by investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board for their water-landing-strategy.

*Frequently referred to in this review by his nickname of “Sully”; now that he’s retired from airline piloting Sully's got his own website if you’d like to know more about him from his perspective.

**Now a location where a good number of other planes also won’t be landing—at least with championship-hopeful-college-athletes on them—in the near future as the NCAA’s just announced that they’re cancelling several 2016-’17 sporting events there in response to the state’s newly-enacted-laws putting what some feel are unconstitutional-limits on the state’s LGBT population.

 The problem is that the government-watchdog-agency’s slick computer simulations show the plane’s left engine wasn’t completely disabled so a safe landing could have been made with either a return to LaGuardia or continuing slightly west to New Jersey’s commuter Teterboro Airport just across the Hudson from Manhattan.  These new accusations have Sully agonizing that he made the wrong decision, endangering both his passengers and crew with the risky water landing (not a “crash,” he insists), as well as risking his career by being barred from further flying.  While he’ll later have a nice upbeat appearance with his crew on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman (this Part 2 clip flows right into Part 3; I couldn't find Part 1)we first see Sully having another nightmare about an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes' Katie Couric (both these TV personalities play themselves here) as she asks “are you a hero or a fraud?”  (During the actual interview in the film he says “I don’t feel like a hero,” that he just did what he’s trained for but we also have the context of his dream to see how conflicted he is during the prolonged investigation.)

 While the consistent mantra from the NTSB investigation team is that they’re only doing their jobs as well, their rough questioning of Sully and Jeff is shown as harshly accusatorial (probing the captain about when he last had a drink prior to takeoff, if he’s any got personal problems at home, etc.), especially from team leader Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley) and Dr. Elizabeth Davis (Anna Gunn—whom I again encourage you to see in another NYC story, of a woman struggling to keep an important Wall Street banking position in Equity [Meera Menon; review in our August 11, 2016 posting], but you'd better hurry because it’s fast-disappearing from theaters), despite Sully’s argument that this crisis was “unprecedented,” something that no prior training could have prepared any pilot for, therefore he had “to fly by the seat of his pants” as it all occurred in less than 4 minutes after the disabling-event (one minor bit of humor comes during another late-night-stress-alleviation-run when Sully wanders into a bar, is recognized and congratulated—no one outside the investigation even knows it’s happening—only to find out Pete the bartender’s [Michael Rapaport]  invented a cocktail called the “Sully,” Grey Goose vodka with a splash of water*).  Whatever minor-upbeat-distractions are presented to soften the oppressive mood of this film, though (further intensified by Sully and Lorraine managing big financial commitments that would be devastating if he lost his career), are firmly put in perspective by 2 re-enactments of the unheard-of-river-landing (along with the subsequent rescue of everyone) that Eastwood works into the flow of this plot, largely to counterbalance the seemingly-irrefutable-computer-simulations that the NTSB presents as their evidence, leaving Sully and Jeff confounded in their private clashes with the investigators even as scenes of the landing are convincing that there was no other choice if these pilots wanted to save the lives of all 155 aboard Flight 1549.

*Another emerged upon the 1st anniversary of the “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2010 in NYC also called the Sully, but now it's a sweet Manhattan topped with Champagne to “rejoice that the [airplane] floated and didn’t sink.”  Pick the one more enticing to you, but "I'll take Manhattan."

 The 1st presentation of that quickly-aborted-trip begins smoothly, with Skiles remarking that “life’s easier in the air” just prior to the run-in with the geese, followed by their initial attempt to turn back to LaGuardia that becomes impossible to Sully as the engines shut down so that this huge hunk of metal has now become a rapidly-descending-glider (at about 3,200 ft. altitude, much lower than any anticipated bird-collisions normally happen, so there were literally just seconds to work with in getting this disabled-airliner into some sort of landing as the pilots worked with no power nor, ultimately, radio contact with air-traffic-controllers).  After the successful splashdown the next hurried focus 
(all done in Eastwood’s tightly-controlled, non-flamboyant style) is the arrival of rescue ferries to get the stunned, frightened people out of the few inflatables—along with the many forced to maintain balance as they stood on the wings now resting on the surface of the frigid river (2 degrees above freezing)—before the airliner, rapidly taking on water, sank from under them.  All the while Sully’s focused on getting everyone out of the plane’s interior, then when he’s ashore making every inquiry to account for all previously aboard.  As the film moves into its final stage, Sullenberger and Skiles are off to Washington, D.C. for a packed-house-public-hearing by the NTSB panel where their case is given increasingly-less-credibility as actual pilots are telecast in simulators (with computer-video enhancement of the NYC environment) that again show successful landings at either LaGuardia or Teterboro (re-creation-demonstrations that the defensive-pilots insisted be shown at the public hearing), until Sully makes 2 objections: that these re-creation-pilots were given opportunities to train for their simulations (the LaGuardia pair had 17 tries prior to the NTSB showcase) and that their tests required immediate headings for 1 of the 2 possible airports, not accounting for brief-but-actual-response-and-decision-time that pilots in this situation needed, so the simulations are done again but this time with a 35-second-delay after the bird-crash before further action is taken.

 With this adjustment, everything now goes in Sully and Jeff’s favor, as the simulations result in crashes before being able to reach either airport, then everyone at the hearing’s given a chance to listen to the actual flight recording of what was said and done on Jan. 15, 2009 in the cockpit as the situation unfolded (with the action illustrated for the film’s audience by a return scene of the airliner crisis, decision, landing, and rescue, but all with just a bit more detail this time than what we witnessed previously), followed by a breaking-news-report that the left engine had been recovered from the river, found to be completely inoperable just as Sully had earlier testified, so all’s now well for our beleaguered-airmen.  Although, even as Dr. Davis praises Sully saying he’s the irreplaceable-human-factor that led to the successful safe return of all on that airplane he insists it was a joint effort of his crew and the rescue operators, all performing properly on behalf of many threatened-civilians (an echo of the equally-heroic-actions of the 9/11 first-responders back in 2001, acting as the actual “Hudson miracle” did in 2009 to give an uplifting response of a story about a distressed airliner but now not ending in the grim tragedy of another crash into buildings, destroying more innocent lives).  As the final credits roll we see footage of an event in an airplane hanger where passengers from Flight 1549 and their families gather for a tribute to Captain Sullenberger and his crew for their level-headed-actions in preventing a calamity that dreadful day.

So What? We find sometimes everything aligns for a film to live up to its expectations; such is the case in Sully with a story about a professional pilot able to function with calm command even in a potentially-horrendous-situation, so here we get everything needed for a successful result: (1) 
a director (Eastwood) skilled at all forms and approaches toward the attitude of cinematic-understatement, refusing to pump up overblown-music that tells you what to feel or include scenes where people frantically scream at each other to sell their feelings to the audience; (2) a star (Hanks*) whose calm approach to the role matches the public image of Sully, the historically-based, well-known-main-character, along with bringing to audiences a lot of past success on screen in a great variety of characters so that he’s to be trusted with not turning genuine drama into melodrama; (3) perfect timing in the release of this cinematic testimonial to a man whose solid experience and focus under extreme pressure was the key factor (despite him willingly sharing that praise with others who were able to get all of the potential casualties out of the frigid river before anyone was overcome with hypothermia) by being able to release it on the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on NYC and Washington, D.C. when 4 jet airliners were hijacked, 3 of them turned into virtual missiles in attacks on Manhattan’s World Trade Center twin towers and the Capital’s Pentagon (the 4th crashed in rural Pennsylvania, thanks to the brave counter-attack by its passengers), so that the memory of the worst disaster to ever hit NYC could be countered by the uplifting memory of a compromised airplane brought to safety rather than being another horrific-instrument of human destruction. 

*With his on-screen-persona radiating trustworthiness, likeability, and humility, Hanks can be understood as the James Stewart of our generation (despite his roles in the odd Cloud Atlas [Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, 2012; review in our November 3, 2012 posting]), the perfect casting-choice for the reserved-but-self-assured-Sullenberger.  (I wonder if he'd ever even consider starring in a remake of It’s a Wonderful Life [Frank Capra, 1946]—but no, there are certain classics like that famous Stewart-Capra story, Citizen Kane, Casablanca, etc. which should not be remade; fortunately, it was only a fake rumor that Francis Ford Coppola’s been reworking his 1972 masterpiece, The Godfather, to be released this year starring Johnny Depp as Vito Corleone).

 The difficulty Eastwood faced here is building conflict within this story because not only is it a well-known-event with Sully actively-celebrated in so many ways after everyone involved had a bit of a chance for a little emotional recuperation but you also get a clear sense before the film’s even half over in that 1st recounting of Sully's tremendously-awesome accomplishment of the river landing that his decisions couldn’t have been wrong (no matter what those computer simulations showed) so what is there to do but present admiration and respect for this man, even though he says he acted out of duty rather than some elevated sense of heroism.  As we’ve come to know after millennia of fictional tales (some enhanced from history, many just pure fabrication) about the inspirational deeds of heroic saviors, a narrative needs conflict unless you’re content to watch a 2-hour-account of an enlightened-guru finding joy—or insightful-learning—from every aspect of human existence (my marvelous wife, Nina, would likely appreciate that as furthering her regular yoga and meditation exercises, just as she’d like to require such daily inspirational-viewing toward peaceful harmony of the world’s warring politicians—an ideal I attempt to share but still stumble toward as my cynicism keeps bubbling up from encountering the daily headlines).  But what keeps our attention in a story—fact-based or not—is usually the struggle that a protagonist must face in rising above the physical or psychological roadblocks preventing a result of personal triumph, serving vicariously as inspiration for us audience members to find the courage for significant acts—no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential—in our own private lives.  

 However, with Sully’s mastering of the dead-engines-crisis in a brief matter of minutes you need something further for him to conquer to justify the expense (in production, distribution, exhibition, and attendance costs) of a feature-length-film, especially one that calls on a good number of high-level-Hollywood-resources.  Thus, the needed villains emerge with the grim NTSB bureaucrats (seemingly working on behalf on the airline and insurance industries in finding preventable-pilot-error at fault for the loss of this airliner and the trauma caused to the passengers).  How that all works out is the subject of the remainder of my review, so please read on for my arguments.

Bottom Line 
Final Comments: A few years ago while preparing notes for a Course Reader in my class in American popular film I made this written statement: “Authors who have studied the concept of the inspirational social hero have often come to the conclusion that we need to provide ourselves with the best version of these leaders through our fiction because the actual models we might seek in political, military, sports, or other public figures—or even just our fellow citizens who suddenly find themselves in the media spotlight such as airline Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, a modern-day hero who saved a commercial flight full of passengers with his miraculous landing on NYC’s Hudson River—are all subject to the criticisms that inevitably come from human weaknesses and limitation, just as we must acknowledge the relativity that also comes into the equation of what equals a hero to various individuals and subgroups of a society.  One person’s ‘champion’ can be another’s ‘terrorist,’ so rather than cheapening the concept of true heroism by fictionalizing history so that the desired outcome becomes inevitable or offering faked warriors (e.g. professional wrestlers, ‘reality’ TV contestants) misunderstood as true victors, many analysts of this subject encourage us to stick with pure fiction where we at least should be able to know that the stories have been manufactured for our pleasure and/or instruction, allowing us to draw from these known artificial victories as a guide for actual decisive action in our own lives.  Other authors acknowledge that our real world at times has a dearth of heroes, leading us to find better ones in our fiction and films to motivate changes in a stagnant society.”  If you go back up to my quoted sentence above regarding “actual models” you can see how inserting current names such as Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Chris Kyle (subject of Eastwood’s American Sniper, 2015; review in our January 29, 2015 posting), and Colin Kaepernick validate my statement, as each has been praised by some, demonized by others for the actions that have made them into media-figures of either lofty- or ill-repute among followers or detractors.

 In the class lecture that accompanied these notes, I’d say that the problem with movies attempting to avoid the long-standing-careers of such public figures, instead building a 2-hour-plot mostly around a single triumphant event—such as with Sullenbergerare then forced by their filmmakers to attempt to find, enhance, or at worst manufacture earlier times in the lives of their noted protagonists that point toward the historical act that will be the ultimate focus of the story (as noted above, Sully does a bit of this with a short flashback scene of him as a military pilot landing a disabled jet fighter when convention wisdom would have called for ejecting from the aircraft, then letting it crash; not having read any detailed biography of the man, I’ll assume for now this tale is true, given that I’ve not noticed any refutation of it).  However, Eastwood seemingly proved me wrong by taking a different direction, presenting the “miracle on the Hudson” events in flashbacks—countered by Sully’s after-the-fact nightmares and troubled fantasies of the horrible crash that could have occurred had his calculations been wrong—while the present-day-focus is on the NTSB investigation into Sully’s decisions, with constant questioning about whether his strategy—while successful—was reckless endangerment, given the various simulations that showed he could have made a more conventional landing.  

 Thus, our hero is turned into an anti-hero (or possibly a situational villain, a distinction I also noted in that class, based on viewer perspective where a true anti-hero is one who defies societal-expectations but proves to be admired anyway [like the outlaws in Bonnie and Clyde {Arthur Penn, 1967} or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid {George Roy Hill, 1969}] while the situational villain’s status is dependent on audience perception, such as the freedom-loving-drug-dealers in Easy Rider [Dennis Hopper, 1969] or the husband-killers in The Postman Always Rings Twice [Bob Rafelson, 1981] where murder is balanced against escape from a troubled marriage), until he’s able to show that the various simulations of successful-landings are based on flawed scenarios, thereby verifying Sully’s fully-vested-heroism (as well as a triumph of human cognition over machine calculations).

 However, my previous warning comes into play in Sully after all, with the complaint from Robert Benzon, actual NTSB lead investigator into Sullenberger and Skiles’ actions, who disputes the depictions in Eastwood’s film that his group was out to find fault with Sully’s choices, noting that the public record will show that even before the public hearing depicted as the climax of Sully that the Airbus A320 simulator tests at the company headquarters in Toulouse, France had already including the “disputed” crew-reaction-time, verifying that the plane couldn’t have reached either local airport without crashing; thus, once again we have accusations of fictional-construct done purely for dramatic purposes of enlivening the impact of a cinematic story even though known facts would undercut what’s shown on screen.  In the New York Times story cited above, though, there’s still no absolute clarity as on the one hand we have Eastwood saying “The investigative board was trying to paint the picture that he [Sully] had done the wrong thing,” while Benzon counters with “Sully is worried about his reputation, but this movie isn’t helping mine.”  Sully 
himself says “For those who are the focus on the investigation, the intensity of it is immense 
[… the process] was inherently adversarial, with professional reputations absolutely in the balance,” especially with a negative verdict resulting in his permanent grounding despite decades of problem-free-flying along with the ongoing guilt that had his water-landing-strategy not worked many on board—if not allcould have been injured or killed while a safer-alternative at the airports was available (at least as shown in the initial simulations, until all necessary factors were included).

 So, even when a person performs a truly heroic act (on the battlefield, responding to a 911-call, in the midst of a terrorist attack) without a pumped-up-biography making it seem that it was always just waiting to happen, there can still be complications and controversy when the public record of the event has to be enhanced into the realm of fiction for the purposes of successful dramatic narrative, which doesn’t invalidate the attempt to celebrate real-life-heroes but it does show the complications involved in Hollywood’s increasing reliance on stories “based on real events.”

 As with the content of another current fact-based-movie, Southside With You (Richard Tanne; review in our September 1, 2016 posting), the dramatic heart of the story being presented is drastically-undercut with the removal of a key plot point (as the chronicled-records seem to indicate): If Michelle  and Barack Obama weren’t actually supposed to be going to a neighborhood meeting on their 1st out-of-office-day-together rather than simply being on a date that led later to their marriage then what we have in Southside …’s foundational-conflict-premise (waiting to be resolved by that late-night-kiss over ice cream) is shown to be a mere fictionalized-ploy that feels like an artificial intrusion needed to make this more than just the account of a smooth-talking-guy finally winning over a reluctant-would-be-partner; similarly, if Sullenberger and Skiles knew before their public hearing that the revised flight-simulations had already exonerated their risky-passenger-protection-strategy, then this foundational conflict is also removed prior to on-screen-resolution, severely nullifying Eastwood’s need to make us tense while watching his account of Sully’s leadership despite long-ago-foreknowledge of the successful water landing, especially when the crisis-producing-event occurs in about 3 minutes so it’s difficult to build the entire film on just the landing and subsequent rescue-operation, all of which in real time had to happen in less than a half-hour due to the sinking of the plane and the inability for those standing on the wings to jump into the river given its near-freezing-conditions plus the lengthy, near-impossible-swim to shore.  

 There’s certainly no question that Sullenberger and Skiles made the right decision in heading for the river, that they made critical-calculations about the proper angle for the descent (see the 5th Related Links video below for details), that they and the rest of the airline crew performed heroically in getting the passengers off the plane, and that the maritime-rescue-operators also did magnificent work bringing everyone to safety onto the several boats.  Eastwood's problem is simply one of going beyond the facts presented in this documentary below, giving this story extended-after-the-fact-impact that encourages audiences with countless other entertainment options to vote with their ticket money to see this long-ago (almost forgotten?) triumph finally celebrated on the big screen.

 As for impact, I’ll cite the case of my own lovely flight-secure-wife, Nina* (although both of us did have some qualms one night as we sat on a tarmac for an hour or so watching out the window of our not-yet-departed-airliner as a maintenance crew did some sort of checking or repairs on one of the wings or engines before we were cleared for departure to Europe; we decided to continue on when the “all clear” was announced, unlike some who chose to depart back to the airport rather than fly into that now-unexpectedly-challenging-night-sky), who’s never been in a plane crash nor known anyone who was, yet, even with the assurance that no one was even injured in the debacle of Flight 1549 she found herself so unnerved by the 1st depiction of the bird-crisis with its ensuing splashdown that she had to leave the theater for awhile (fortunately for her, missing the 2nd depiction of that horrific event with the additional tension of the plane evacuees desperately waiting for final rescue even as their disabled vehicle was starting to submerge [which would have dumped those “lucky” enough to be in the rafts rather then standing on the wings, because the rafts were attached to the plane]), discussing with another woman who sought the safety of the lobby that the situation was just too intense for either of them, no matter how well they knew it had all turned out eventually.  So, be aware of that if you or someone you know is fearful of airplane crashes because so much of this film’s running time is devoted to either the depictions of Sully’s situation or his terrible nightmares about alternative-case-tragic-results of his decision that you might not be able to endure watching all of this in order to still be in your seat when he gets to celebrate his exoneration at the final hearing.  Regarding box-office-impact, Sully’s had a great debut weekend with a bit over $35 million in domestic receipts, very well ahead of the rest of its competition, probably due to the confluence of factors that include story, lead actor, director, and timely-theatrical-release as an uplift to our somber 9/11 remembrances last Sunday.

*That’s not the case with one of her sisters, though, who has such a fear of flying that she has to be drunk to do it.  (That's not a bad strategy, I must admit, as I’ve used a mild version of it myself on a few occasions but only, I swear, because no driving duties awaited me upon arrival, especially on the rare times when I’ve been able to travel 1st-or-business-class where the drinks are free.)

 So, what’s my reaction to Sully and its (necessary?) over-dramatization of the dramatic-water-landing’s-investigative-aftermath, given the chastisement 
I previously offered to Southside With You because of its similarly-dubious-premise of Barack Obama winning over his future wife due to this social event which she kept insisting wasn’t a date even though little evidence can be cited that their ostensible reason for spending that weekend day together was actually part of their chosen agenda, thereby undermining the movie’s entire dramatic premise.  In the case of Sully, though, I’m willing to be more forgiving of how the NTSB’s explorations were given a more confrontational-presentation than Mr. Benzon says they deserved for 2 reasons.  I’ll start with the situation that even in the article in which I found Benzon’s complaints there are clear indications that Sullenberger felt his career was on the line, as supported by what producer Allyn Stewart says, that this film “needs to be an authentic view of what Sully and Jeff experienced, and this was what they faced.  This was what they went through” (whereas whatever difficulties Barack faced in getting his supervisor, Michelle, to meet with him outside of the office for them to be social in any way on their fateful day had obviously already been overcome somehow, plus the tension that exists around getting someone that attracts you to reciprocate is a consideration—more so in retrospect if you find you’re truly compatiblebut a “win some, lose some” gamble back in the pre-connection-stages, whereas Sully’s long-respected career, personal dignity, and fragile finances were on the line [similarly for Skiles], until his choices were proved correct), so I agree with Stewart that depicting their desperate situation during the inquiry period was vital, with Sullenberger as the one most focused on because the ultimate responsibility for the day lay with him, so that harrowing-inner-turmoil was properly shown in his dream scenes and tense phone calls to Lorraine, although the constructed-drama of the verifying-simulations could have been shown in a private discussion rather than inserting that conflict-resolution-scenario into the known-facts of the public hearing.

 My other reason for being more lenient in my final decision to go with my initial gut reaction of 4 stars for Sully (before I was aware of the Benzon complaints) comes from the same rationale I used to elevate the factual-limitations of Florence Foster Jenkins (Stephen Frears; review in our August 31, 2016 posting) up from a possible-3 to my decided-3½ stars, that being the superb performances of all involved (especially Meryl Steep, possibly putting her in contention for yet another of her many Oscar-nominations) which just makes the total experience all the more enjoyable, even if history may become somewhat muddled in the fictionalization process of the story being presented.  With Sully, everyone does a fully-competent job with their necessary supportive roles but the spotlight shines appropriately on Tom Hanks, clearly one of the best actors not only of his own generation but of all those preceding him (like Streep, worthy of more awards than he’s actually been given, although she’s the record-holder for the Oscars with 19 acting nominations [2 wins] while Hanks is 2 for his 5, although both have other wins for such competitions as the Golden Globes, the Emmys, and prizes from the Screen Actors Guild and various critics’ groups), with a performance here that effectively balances the control-under-fire that Sully needed to maintain when every choice had to be right, had to be made within seconds, with the inner turmoil he’s feeling when the NTSB investigators put into his mind that he could have safely made an airport landing.  (But by gliding onto a concrete runway with no control over those tons of fast-moving metal?  With the power gone, I don’t know if there was manual control to lower the landing gear, but if not how could the plane have not shattered into a wretched tomb upon impact?)

 The grief that Hanks carries in Sully’s face as he constantly second-guesses himself until the final acceptance of his decisions by the NTSB panel is a masterful bit of skilled-performance (just as were Sully’s skilled-actions in real life), which makes Hanks 2 for 2 in films this year given his other excellent portrayal, of a sad, overwhelmed salesman in A Hologram for the King (Tom Tykwer; review in our April 28, 2016 posting, although I rated it much higher than what you'll find in the overall general-critical-consensus), with a 3rd possibility awaiting us in Inferno (Ron Howard, set for release on October 28, 2016) in which Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon again must use his superior skills to uncover secrets of deadly proportions.  Whether you’re more impressed with how Hanks channels Sullenberger’s challenged-grace-under-pressure or with how NTSB’s Benzon boldly challenges Eastwood’s whole “bureaucrats as villains” premise (just as this film challenges the easy assumption of Sully as infallible hero until you’ve seen how his focused-courage was essential in the eventual outcome), you’ve got to admit (if you can tolerate watching the seemingly-sure-demise of US Airways Flight 1549, despite your foreknowledge of everyone surviving) that the circumstances of this event are the stuff of age-old-wonderment in the power of depicted drama, just as the humanizing aspect of allowing the celebrated-hero to sincerely doubt that his decisions were the correct ones (even though the result may have luckily landed in his favor) makes for a compelling film, one that hopefully will carry some memories for awards-voters as we now flow into the autumn-to-winter-seasons of serious moviemaking that'll carry us past most of the financial impact of summer-escapist-fare as we move toward the cinematic culmination of 2016.

I know this review's mostly illustrated with photos of Sully
(either Hanks or the real guy) but that's the nature
of the film too, as he dominates every scene.
 After all of the well-crafted-tension of Sully, though, I’d like to end this review’s ruminations on a lighter note by getting back to Jeff Skiles’ lovely intended-calming-statement of “Life’s easier in the air”—at least until an unexpected-tragedy puts that life in peril—by choosing as my Musical Metaphor to help us all sail off into serenity The Beatles’ “Flying” (from their 1967 Magical Mystery Tour album), one of their very rare instrumentals, that just floats along pleasantly for a couple of minutes, but, for me, finding an appropriate version has proven to be more difficult than I’d first imagined, possibly due to some copyright problem that prevents this music from being given away too freely, so the closest I’ve come to the originally-released-recording is some form of the entire album at (although it sounds a little strangely-hollow, different from my CD of the same) where you have to horizontally-scroll through the video’s time-bar to 3:15 to hear this song (which goes to about 5:20, also to be found on the repeat of the entire album at 38:18 to about 48:23, as best I hear the final notes each time); however, there’s also this version, which is considerably longer, somehow remastered (accompanied only by a silly photo of the Fab Four on a beach).  But, I’d also like to further lighten Sully’s mood with my own silliness of another Metaphor, The Beach Boys' "Catch a Wave" (from the 1963 Surfer Girl album) to celebrate Sully’s use of the world’s biggest surfboard to make a wave more so than catch one but also give new meaning to “walkin’ the nose” of said board as his carefully-calculated-landing kept the airplane’s front end up for escape even as the back was slowly sinking into the Hudson.

 If this last one stimulates your inner-surfer then you might also like to give a listen to this live performance from the Beach Boys’ 2012 50th-anniversary-tour (with remaining original members Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, David Marks, and Bruce Johnson) of “Catch a Wave” plus more water-riding-songs: “Hawaii,” “Don’t Back Down,” “Surfin’” (“Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin’ U.S.A.” came at other times in the concert; I’m sure you can search them out somewhere if you need even more of a dip in the sunny surf until next we ride the waves of cinematic-subjects again).
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*We’re sorry to say that a Google software glitch causes every Two Guys in the Dark posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to the Summary page, but there are too many of them to go back and fix them all.  From 8/26/16 on this link is accurate, with hopefully not too much confusion caused by this latest stupid snafu from the Alphabet overlords’ programming problems.
Here’s more information about Sully: (this site's been inconsistent for me; sometimes you have to click on the little box in the upper-left-corner to get all of its details, sometimes they're already visible) (a little longer than the usual trailer, with brief commentary from actual airline pilot “Sully” Sullenberger and director Clint Eastwood at the beginning)

Here’s a cluster of clips related to Sully in one way or another: (5:34 interview with actor Tom Hanks, gets a bit silly toward the end), https:// (4:44 interview with actual pilots Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Office Jeff Skiles), (3:56 parody biography of Tom Hanks’ career with Sully playing Tom), and watch?v=5SL1A2d2e7M (48:26 documentary about the real “miracle on the Hudson” water landing and the following difficult rescue with lots of testimony from passengers on that flight, Capt. Sully, and witnesses of the event)

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my new email at  Thanks.

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.



  1. Frankly Sully was better than I expected given the 208 second event that everyone heard about at the time. A testament to the actors, director and screenwriters. I did think their treatment of Sully's wife as a scatterbrain folding under pressure was a little strong and perhaps a reflection of Eastwood's directorial orientation for strong white men.

  2. Hi rj, I do believe we're in agreement on all of the points that you raise; for reasons I elaborated into the ground within the review I also didn't quite expect as much as I got (although Hanks always gives me hope that he'll elevate whatever he's in, just as I continue to have great respect for Eastwood as a director despite his politics). Ken