Friday, September 09, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Sully (2016)

It's the rare new movie these days which will draw me to a theater on opening night, but SULLY (2016) was such a film.

The story of the "Miracle on the Hudson," with Clint Eastwood directing Tom Hanks as Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, was worth the effort; it was a good film which I enjoyed very much.

Hanks is perfectly cast as the calm, quietly heroic Captain Sullenberger, who -- following a disastrous bird strike which took out both engines -- safely piloted his passenger jet with 155 souls on board to a landing on the Hudson River. Hanks is at his most moving when emotions peek through the professional restraint, particularly when he is informed that a head count confirms all passengers survived.

I also thought Aaron Eckhart was excellent as First Officer Jeff Skiles, wryly funny and very real.

Hanks' Sully seems somewhat more doubting and traumatized by the experience than we are used to seeing from the real Sully's public appearances; not having read Sully's book, I don't know if the film reflects emotional experiences unseen by the public or if these moments were a means of injecting a bit of drama.

I've also read concerns about how the NTSB was portrayed, but here I'm pretty sure that was a mild attempt to inject some conflict into what is, in the end, a very happy story.

There's no need to do anything to make the crash (sorry, "forced landing") on the Hudson more dramatic, and in these scenes the movie excels. We actually watch the landing twice, first as part of Sully's flashbacks to the event and later as the cockpit recording is played at the public NTSB hearing.

These scenes, including the subsequent evacuation and rescue by boats who quickly arrived at the crash site, are edge of the seat thrilling and extremely well done. Eastwood and his cockpit actors, Hanks and Eckhart, capture the professionalism which overrode fear and allowed the men to do an incredibly difficult job. I was particularly struck by a moment when Eckhart's Skiles looks over at Sully; you can see in his eyes he knows his life is on the line but he never questions his captain, just does anything needed.

Laura Linney is somewhat necessarily underused, as her only scenes are on the phone, supporting her husband on the other side of the country.

It took me a while to figure out that a very familiar-looking passenger was Valerie Mahaffey, who's been kicking around episodic TV for years; for instance, fans of NORTHERN EXPOSURE will recall her recurring role as Eve.

I'm not sure when the last time was that I saw a "new" live-action film which was only 95 minutes long. It was refreshing to see a briskly paced movie which covered all the angles of the story and then wrapped up instead of dragging things out another 15 minutes or so. Incidentally, the audience applauded at the end, which is something I regularly experience when seeing classic films but is a rare occurrence at newer movies.

Viewers should be sure to stay for the end credits, which feature photos of the actual incident and footage of a reunion of the real pilots and passengers.

Todd Komarnicki's screenplay was based on Sullenberger's memoir HIGHEST DUTY, coauthored with Jeffrey Zaslow. The movie was filmed by Tom Stern.

For other enthusiastic reviews, please visit reviews by Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, and Leonard Maltin.

Parental Advisory: SULLY is rated PG-13 for some peril and "brief strong language." I highly recommend SULLY for older children who can handle the disaster aspect, as Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles are admirable role models, professionals with the utmost concern for their passengers. The professionalism and teamwork of the flight attendants, air traffic controllers, and first responders is another positive aspect of the film.

The trailer is on YouTube.

Finally, some comments on the hot new trend toward reserved seating at movie theaters, which I experienced for the first time tonight. I've spoken with a few people who are fans of the idea; for instance, my daughter can get to a movie after work without much time to spare and know she has a good seat. I haven't been a fan of the concept, however, for several reasons, and tonight it played out pretty much as I worried it would:

1) I use prepaid discount tickets for all full-price shows, which cannot be redeemed online. I arrived at the theater a full hour before the showing but even so, the seat choices were limited because of all the advance online purchases.

2) The box office line moved glacially as everyone took time to deliberate on their seating choices; a line that should have taken five minutes took 15. Additionally, the electronic seating chart was extremely hard to read, with the row letters hidden in teeny-tiny print over the seats on the end of each row; someone in line behind me had to point out where they were! And when I got into the theater I realized the chart was "flipped" to a mirror image, and that while I'd thought I'd chosen a seat on the left of the theater, it was actually on the right.

3) The theater was not completely cleaned after the previous show, and my seat had trash on it. Rather than simply choosing a different one, as I would normally do, I had two options, cleaning it off myself or getting an employee to either clean it or change my ticket.

4) Although it wasn't an issue this evening, I meet friends at movies fairly often, and now we have to arrange to buy tickets together if we want to sit next to each other.

I love "new" technology when it works; for instance, I have the movie theater's app on my phone and have it scanned at the box office and concession stand to earn rewards. The reserved seating, however, only works for some people some of the time. Theaters need to address the kinds of issues I mention above if reserved seating is going to work for all.

9 Comments:

Blogger CineMaven said...

I HATE the idea of reserved seating and your list doesn't quell my fears. "Sully" is a film I want to see. Now, to find a theatre where I can find my seat in real time!

5:53 AM  
Blogger mel said...

Not only is the trailer of Sully on YouTube, but there are also several documentaries on the actual crash, of which this is one:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SL1A2d2e7M

It's extremely seldom that I have any interest in current films, but when I first read about Sully, I firmly resolved to see it - which I will do if and when it is released in my neck of the woods.

7:57 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I do plan to see this movie soon (with a wedding coming up, and I'm sure you are well aware of this) other things get first priority :) Your review confirms what I've been hearing about this movie and if it has Tom Hanks in it, you can be assured of a great picture.

Regarding reserved seating. I appreciate the concerns you shared. For me some of things they are now offering are difficult because I do not have an iphone or any kind of phone that uses apps (guess I'm a dinosaur). Fortunately I can still go to theaters w/o the advanced seat reservation but there is one near me in Downey. I also prefer to go and pay for my ticket right there and not in advance and online - a bad experience having my information stolen when I made an online purchase. That company was hacked into! But when I go in the daytime, the advantage of being retired (!), and there are less crowds, then it's fine. And I LOVE the lounger seats in the theater in Downey :)

8:48 AM  
Blogger DKoren said...

No no no! I HATE the idea of reserved seating so much I can't even tell you. I'm not an online person, and like you, I use discount coupons. I want to be able to get to the theater and hour before or 5 minutes before and pick from what's available when I get in there. And slower lines at the box office? Ugh. Besides, I don't know how many times I've sat down, then decided it was too close or too far away and moved. I don't know how I'd ever pick the right distance from a chart. And sometimes you have to shift seats because of other rude or noisy people. You have to be able to move around! I hate the thought of my freedom to sit where I want being taken away like that. With no real benefits to the majority of movie goers.

The movie sounds really good, and even though I'm not a fan of real-life event movies, I think I'll end up renting this one to check it out.

11:33 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Just got home from one of our relatively rare trips to see a new film at the cinema, and that was "JASON BOURNE" which I believe you will be seeing shortly, Laura. Look forward to your review and note comparison! BTW, I intend to go to see "SULLY" on its arrival here in December, thanks to your favourable review.

Very interested by the feelings here about reserved seats. Our local library theatre where we see most of the films on release lets you choose your seat to reserve (like at a theatre) and it works fine. If there are empty seats you can always shift for comfort just before the film starts.

2:34 PM  
OpenID livius1 said...

I watched this tonight and came away with a generally positive impression too. I liked the pacing and I appreciated the way Eastwood's direction and the script maintained the drama and tension even as I viewed familiar events unfold on screen.

Saw this one outdoors - having the Acropolis on my left while thunder and lightning circled the city and threatened to sweep in at any time added an extra bit of atmosphere.

Colin

3:05 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you all so much for the feedback!

Mel, I appreciated the YouTube link! I have at least one Miracle on the Hudson documentary recorded from TV and will see if I have this one.

Colin, can't tell you how the idea of seeing SULLY with lightning and the Acropolis seen in the distance. Oh my! What a special memory. Very glad you found it enjoyable as I did. I agree Eastwood did a fine job making the film tense and suspenseful even though we knew what would happen.

Jerry, I'm actually hoping to see JASON BOURNE tomorrow (Sunday) if all goes well, looking forward to comparing notes! This is quite the movie-going weekend for me as there is a second Disney film I'd like to squeeze in if I can, though it may have to wait till next Thursday. Was interested to read that reserved seating has worked out well for you.

I wondered if I were in a minority about the reserved seating so was interested to also hear from others who share my lack of enthusiasm. I really want to be able to choose when I walk in. It seems quite different from live theater, where it's an event where you plan well in advance who you'll attend with, the clientele are more reliably "well behaved" (if nothing else, due to the high price paid for the experience), and there aren't issues with things like the theatre being picked up (although that may be changing -- see the end of my last theatrical review). Standing in an interminable line last night watching people hunched over the screen choosing seats struck me as so completely unnecessary.

This morning when I returned to the same theater for COOL RUNNINGS (1993), the man in line in front of me was buying tickets for an evening screening of SULLY. When he was told to choose his seats he responded with a degree of dismay and exasperation, "Do I have to?!" I couldn't help but chuckle thinking of all the comments here. I wonder just how popular the program will be; if anything it seems to make movie-going more complicated for many people, which I don't think is the intent.

Hope everyone who hasn't seen SULLY yet will get the chance to see it and enjoy it!

Best wishes,
Laura

5:29 PM  
OpenID vienna said...

Enjoyed your review and I look forward to seeing Sully when it opens in the UK.
And YES, I totally agree with you about reserved seating. Such a nuisance. The few times I go to the cinema it is before midday and it generally isn't busy, so although I have an assigned seat I can pick and choose - though once I had to move !

12:23 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Vienna! I'd love to know your thoughts when SULLY opens there!

At present our local theater is only doing reserved seating in the late afternoon/evening...avoiding the reservation system is going to be an impetus for me to try to get to the "early bird" shows when I can!

Best wishes,
Laura

9:23 AM  

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