Friday, September 9, 2016

‘Sully’ soars as heroic, breathtaking, truth-based story

By Steve Crum
Haven’t Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks already had their share of Oscar nominations? Regardless, it is likely they will receive another each for Sully. What a stunning, heroic story it is. The fact that Sully opens two days before the 15th anniversary of  the 9-11 attacks is undoubtedly no coincidence since this historically based story is all about human values and principles. And New York City is the backdrop. 
Based upon the non-fiction best seller Highest Duty, by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow,  Sully (Sullenberger’s nickname) recounts the near tragic US Airways Flight 1549 flight of January 15, 2009—including its forced ditching in NYC’s Hudson River and the intensive investigation that followed. Not only have I never read the book, but knowing what happened following the incident escaped my knowledge. So I brought little to the proverbial plate as a member of the audience. That said, I know now—and you will too. Director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki have done a superb job in covering the true story’s waterfront, wordplay intended. 
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Director Clint Eastwood and his star, Tom Hanks, confer off camera during filming.
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Plot spoilers do not apply much here, since a great deal of the story involves information generally known. For example, on that cold January day seven years ago, US Airways veteran pilots Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeffery Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) boarded at LaGuardia Airport. The 155 passengers and crew, a full plane, buckled up for what everyone thought was a routine flight. About three minutes after takeoff, the plane encountered a large flock of birds that hit them head-on, knocking out both engines. 
Too far away from LaGuardia to return for landing, Sullenberger has 208 seconds to make a decision, choosing to set down on, and hopefully not under, the Hudson. Following the desperate call, a LaGuardia air traffic controller remarks to his fellow controller, “People don’t survive water landings.” 
The recreation of the rocky landing that occurs about an hour into the film, including the water rescue by combined military and NYC squads, is a spectacular site to behold. The intensity and terror of those minutes aboard the plane overwhelms. I found myself sobbing at one point, and that is a credit to Eastwood, the actors (particularly Hanks), Blu Murray’s effective editing, and CGI effects. Among the passengers is a baby with her parents, which would put any viewer over the emotional edge. And it all occurs in real time, abruptly and rapidly. Anyone who has ever flown undoubtedly has thought about a similar nightmare scenario. This is the most jarring sequence of an airplane emergency ever filmed. Seeing it on the IMAX screen heightens the experience. 
The final fourth of the film involves the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into Sullenberger’s decision to water land, since computerized recreations indicate the plane could have returned to LaGuardia without any problem. Sully and Skiles hold firm on the Hudson River decision. 
Incidentally, the first part of the film focuses on Scully’s anxieties about the trial, which (hint) makes the incident itself a flashback. We also get to know his character better, including interactions with his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney) and various scenes of Scully’s history with airplanes as a young man. 
But it is the totally engrossing in-flight sequence that dominates Sully. Prepare your adrenaline. 
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GRADE on an A-F Scale:A

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