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Sully, review: ‘Tom Hanks’ calmness makes for an odd American hero’

08:31 30 November 2016

Sully, starring Tom Hanks. Picture: Warner Bros

Sully, starring Tom Hanks. Picture: Warner Bros

© 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Village Roadshow Films North America Inc. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC – U.S., C

Clint Eastwood finds something unique in the true story of the pilot who landed a plane on the Hudson river

The Miracle on the Hudson, when pilot Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) safely landed a stricken passenger plane on the New York river without any loss of life or even serious injury, is a great true story, but I couldn’t see a movie in it.

Plane takes off; freak and unprecedented bird strike knocks out both his engines almost immediately; lands on the water; all get rescued; grateful survivors say ‘Cheers Sully, we’d all be dead if not for you’; the end. Clint Eastwood though saw in that something unique – a 9/11 revenge weepie.

It’s a plane crashing in New York story that has a happy ending and the 9/11 parallels are pushed hard. There are nightmare sequences where Sully visualises crashing into the New York skyline.

After the crash landing, the emergency services swing efficiently into action and work with exemplary coordination to complete the miracle.

The script switches time frames deftly, going back and forward from reenactments of the fateful day in January 2009, to his life before and after, with its press intrusion and a hostile investigation into his actions by The National Transportation Safety Board. Instead of seeming stretched, it makes for a tight, compact hour and a half.

This may all sound quite manipulative, and it is, but Eastwood is not a director who lets you see the strings or feel the prods.

If he were a sheep dog you’d be in that pen instantly and would swear that it was completely your own decision.

Combine that with a greyed up Hanks playing discrete integrity, in an inherently moving tale of survival done without histrionics and it makes for an irresistible package.

With his calmness, his diffidence towards acclaim and his rather stiff upper lip reluctance to talk about it, Sully makes for an odd American hero. (Surely he should be high fiving, making wisecracks and grinning insufferably.)

It has been a sizeable hit in America. Released there in September, this tale of a decent man, doing his job heroically and being rewarded with weaselly men and women in suits trying to scapegoat him because they were worried about the insurance pay out, seemed to chime with the nation’s swamp draining fervour.

On Halfmanhalfcritic.weebly.com: John Pilger’s The Coming War With China, re-release of Blue Velvet, documentary Tickled on DVD.

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