Michael Bergeron
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Film Facts: 9.9.16

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A once in a lifetime disaster was averted when skilled airline pilot Capt. Chesley Sullenberger belly-landed a jet aircraft in the Hudson River after its engines had been disabled by a freak dissimulation of birds. Flight 1549 (a U.S. Airways Airbus A329-214) dove into the water with split second precision after 208 seconds in the air on January 15, 2009.

Sully, helmed with a lifetime of experience by Clint Eastwood, depicts this event no less than three times and the subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine if Sullenberger was at fault. Tom Hanks as Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as co-pilot Jeff Skiles are front and center.

No doubt you’ve heard of the 10,000-hour rule. Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers outlined a process where after ten thousand hours of perfecting your craft you are an expert in your field. At the time of the crash Sullenberger had over 20,000 hours as a pilot.

The whole purpose of Eastwood’s film is hero worship, pure and simple. Yet rather than just unfold in a linear manner, Eastwood — not unlike in the film Rashomon — gives us three specific views of the incident, each one individualized by different shots and separate points of view.

There are moments when Sully is an edge-of-your-seat fingernails-dug-into-the-armrests action extravaganza, only the bad guy is the reality of the situation. Then there are sections when Sully becomes a hardcore procedural, but old-school style. If Eastwood is willing to ape Kurosawa’s award winning tale of differing viewpoints Rashomon (1950), he’s also referencing classic courtroom dramas like Witness to the Prosecution (1957). A good example of a post-modern procedural would be David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007). Sully ain’t that.

Note that what Sullenberger goes through is not a trial but a hearing. Yet it feels like a courtroom evisceration.

In a more perverse sense, Eastwood also poetically echoes mock disaster films like Airport 1975 (1974) since like any disaster flick worth its salt, Sully must introduce a fraction of the 155 passengers. Then we proceed to cut back and forth on occasion to reaction shots from faces that aren’t the main actors. While that’s short on character depth, it illustrates character motivation.

The first time the audience see the accident, in the opening salvo of the film, the plane crashes and explodes into a building. We’re reliving 9/11 as Hanks wakes up in flop sweats from a nightmare. The second time the accident is depicted happens early in the film’s second act. We relive the experience in real time.

Then Sully shifts into examination mode. Sullenberger gets cheers when he walks into a bar. But in his mind, he’s on display to the public via the media and also being persecuted by the organization that he’s supported his entire professional career. You keep wondering when is Clint going to shift this puppy back to action overdrive. Then everybody at the hearing puts on earphones to listen to the black box recording of the crash and the film goes ballistic.

Yes, Sully ends with a whisper. But what happens before is loud and complicated.

Sully was shot using IMAX cameras for large sections of the film and the best way to see the film would be in an IMAX engagement.

Sully opens wide this weekend.

The Hollars unwinds in as shallow a manner as the beer that it’s characters drink. This is a light ale version of a sophisticated family comedy/drama.

Director John Krasinski can be amazing in television shows like The Office or movies like 13 Hours, Aloha or Promised Land, the latter title he co-wrote with Matt Damon.

Krasinski calls in favors and gets a tony cast that includes Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Sharlto Copley, Richard Jenkins, Randall Park, Charlie Day, Mary Kay Place and others. Krasinski directs like the whole ordeal is a cutesy television affair. With that cast alone, The Hollars should rock. No, it sinks pretty much from the first beat to the last like a heavy stone on a calm pond.

The Hollars opens exclusively at the River Oaks Theatre this Friday.