“Sully” is essentially a two-man showcase – one in front of the camera and one behind it.
The movie, based on the 2009 plane crash on the Hudson River where all 155 passengers survived, is anchored by strong work from Tom Hanks, but it also allows Clint Eastwood to showcase his skills as a director. It’s fascinating to watch this film unfold and realize that the 86-year-old continues to create work that is challenging yet entertaining.
“Sully” focuses on the days after the crash with Capt. Chesley Sullenberger (Hanks) dealing with the instant fame that came with his miraculous landing while also under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Sullenberger, nicknamed Sully, keeps reliving the events while trying to determine if in fact he put the passengers and crew in more danger than he should have with the decision to crash land into the Hudson.
The cast also includes Aaron Eckhart as Sully’s co-pilot and an underutilized Laura Linney as Sully’s wife, but this is called “Sully” for a reason. It’s about how an everyman became an instant hero, and Hanks is the perfect choice to capture that everyman. Eastwood lets scenes linger where we see Sully in quiet reflection in a manner that only someone as skilled as Hanks can make compelling.
Then there is the re-creation of the crash, done in flashbacks, where we get to see Eastwood at the top of his craft. The tension is there, even as the audience is aware of the outcome. A post-credit reunion with real-life passengers and Sullenberger gives the film its emotional kick.
Ultimately, “Sully” isn’t just a tribute to the pilot, but one to all of those – including police and the Coast Guard – who helped make this miraculous rescue possible.
Also in theaters
Another film aimed at the adult crowd is “The Light Between Oceans” (C), a well-intentioned weeper that suffers from lethargic pacing. It’s well-made but lacks any true emotional connection.
Set in post-World War I, “Oceans” tells the story of Tom (Michael Fassbender), a lighthouse keeper off the coast of Australia who marries Isabel (Alicia Vikander). The couple’s attempts to have a family fails with Isabel suffering two miscarriages. It appears they will never have a child, until one day a boat comes ashore with a dead man and an infant girl still alive.
Isabel convinces Tom to not report the boat and raise the girl as their own. The plan goes well for a while until Tom learns that the infant’s mother Hannah (Rachel Weisz) is a local woman still searching for answers about her missing husband and child.
Derek Cianfrance directed and adapted the screenplay from the M.L. Stedman novel and approaches this story in the same manner as previous films “Blue Valentine” and “The Place Beyond the Pines.” Like those films, this deals with complicated relationships that feel on the edge.
The three leads are good, exactly what you would expect from two Oscar winners and a nominee.
Despite all the solid crafting, “Oceans” never hits the right chords. It feels like a rough draft and not a completed work, with a running time of 133 minutes that bogs down. It feels as if Cianfrance gets too entranced with the mood and visuals at times, with what seem like endless shots of the ocean and lighthouse.
Then, there is the final third of the film, with multiple false endings. It’s as if it was tested by audiences multiple times with multiple suggestions for a finish and Cianfrance decided to include every one of them.
Trimmed just a bit, then maybe “Oceans” wouldn’t have left me as cold as it did.
“The Light Between Oceans” is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual content and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.