Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

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Professor Wagstaff
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Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#1 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Wed Jun 29, 2016 9:09 pm

Clint Eastwood's Sully

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Ribs
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Re: The Films of 2016

#2 Post by Ribs » Fri Sep 09, 2016 6:58 pm

Kind of shocked and rattled at how morose Sully is; it's incredibly light on levity, and is mostly just an exercise in misery (by design, I suppose). It wasn't exactly the hope-filled hero worship thing I was expecting, more similar to Before the Devil Knows You're Dead or Foxcatcher in its tone. It's really pretty good, I think, but it's not exactly a great time at the movies.

(And as great as he obviously is when they do the inevitable real-footage-of-real-Sully at the end I couldn't help but think it was Jeff Goldblum's part to play, but I think that about everything)

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Films of 2016

#3 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Sep 11, 2016 4:34 pm

I would disagree to how morose it is, at least compared to some of Eastwood's more recent work. The last movie I'd seen of his was J. Edgar which was utterly grim from what I remember. The only levity I took from it was watching my homophobic brother realize the subject of the movie was gay.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:51 pm

As a study of a real-life character made famous by acts of heroism that has to navigate its way around the many hagiographic pitfalls inherent in its material, Sully largely succeeds where American Sniper almost entirely failed. Where Eastwood's prior effort only superficially gave Bradley Cooper's Chris Kyle any real human shading or self-doubt (through no fault of Cooper's own), Tom Hanks' Sully is established from the opening moments of the film as a more recognizably human character, whose decency and professional competence is apparent, but whose uncertainty, anxiety, and weariness are given just as much weight by both script and director.

Todd Komarnicki's script wisely doles out the complete details of its central events sparingly -
SpoilerShow
and even misleadingly, in the disturbingly rendered dreams and visions showing what might have happened had Sully chosen unwisely
- across the film, and the depiction of the unheralded people who helped in the rescue of the members of the not-quite-doomed flight nicely undermines the lone hero trope that could have been unbearable.

The film is far from perfect, with Eastwood too overtly deploying the stereotype of dastardly bureaucrats just begging for righteous comeuppance (in the form of the NTSB review board), and the film's ending is notably abrupt and lacking in emotional payoff. Still, this is a much more taut, tense, and compelling film than I anticipated - currently just outside my top ten for the year - and after the shit I piled onto American Sniper, I was glad to genuinely enjoy an Eastwood film.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#5 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 7:31 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:with Eastwood too overtly deploying the stereotype of dastardly bureaucrats just begging for righteous comeuppance (in the form of the NTSB review board)
"Dastardly" isn't the word I would use in this case, but I think it's funny how this really has become a theme over Clint's career going back to the Dirty Harry movies where bureaucracy is just another obstacle for the hero to overcome.

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whaleallright
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#6 Post by whaleallright » Sat Sep 17, 2016 5:20 pm

That's broadly consonant with Eastwood's politics (or at least, how he likely understands his politics).

I thought the obviously telescoped melodrama of the hearing was the screenplay's weakest aspect (and the broadness of the portrayals of the side characters the direction's biggest fault), but I actually enjoyed the anticlimax of Aaron Eckhardt's rimshot closing line. The modesty of the moment fit the way the characters are portrayed, as unpretentious professionals simply seeking to demonstrate that they did the best job they could.

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aox
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#7 Post by aox » Sun Sep 18, 2016 1:23 am

DarkImbecile wrote:As a study of a real-life character made famous by acts of heroism that has to navigate its way around the many hagiographic pitfalls inherent in its material, Sully largely succeeds where American Sniper almost entirely failed.
Completely agree. American Sniper was borderline offensive to me in its politics. I also don't like the majority of Eastwood's directing outlets. However, this film shocked me at how he was able to make a mountain out of a molehill. There really isn't much of a story here, and the film is completely contrived, but I found it strangely compelling. I also thought the craft was top in its approach of showing the crash three times, but each time giving the viewer more information and each time making it more compelling.

Hanks was great.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#8 Post by barryconvex » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:56 am

Jeez, what a snoozefest this was. Sully saves the day then has bad dreams about almost blowing it. Laura Linney is on hand to say "i love you" to him a dozen or so times. No drama, no tension, no comedy, no nothing. And most importantly, no insight into this man's character. I had a similar reaction to Hanks' previous movie, Bridge Of Spies but Spielberg's film is like Raging Bull compared to this lifeless slog. This movie has no right to exist.


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Ribs
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#10 Post by Ribs » Wed Apr 25, 2018 10:32 am

Sounds like somebody's trying to sully them

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hearthesilence
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#11 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:10 pm

Kind of fitting coming from a libertarian filmmaker, though the sources in the article strongly suggest that the producer, Tim Moore, was the one who caused them to cross the line.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#12 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:34 pm

Wasn't Mnuchin involved with this or am I thinking of something else?

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hearthesilence
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#13 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:36 pm

He's listed as an executive producer, possibly for getting them funding - he may not have had anything to do with the production accounting.

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aox
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#14 Post by aox » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:43 pm

That's interesting. In this context and semi-related, I recently learned that Anthony Scaramucci (co-)produced the new HBO film, Paterno.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#15 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:41 pm

Not too late for him to get his name on the Freddie Mercury bio-pic

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#16 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Aug 29, 2020 5:35 pm

An interesting entry in the run of Eastwood films about heroic individuals doing their best within a system that potentially might be more than prepared to grind them down and throw them to the wolves to save face, although this one is pretty optimistic in outlook for all of the concerns it may express. That really feels like the primary Clint Eastwood theme running through all of his work to a greater or lesser degree, and it is a conservative kind of idea, but that might not necessarily be something that is inherently a bad thing. As always it comes down to how that approach gets handled, and whilst the film is obviously weighted a lot towards the main character as being obviously correct in his acts, making it weirdly rather an anti-dramatic film (Its a kind of film where even though the flight has been called and the gate attendant appears officious and grumpy at first at some people running up desperate to get onto the flight, she will rather unrealistically do an abrupt about turn and let the latecomers onto the plane with a nod and a wink. This is obviously a film taking the side of the heroic pilots, and the unsung 'blue collar working Joe' heroes in general, in the situation and although even though it tries a bit to manufacture a moral dilemma drama out of it as if to suggest a different course of action I am left not being entirely sure what possible other viewpoint could have been taken of the situation unless viewing things in a very obtuse manner!), it has different things on its mind.

Which is that its a film trying to counter people with 'bad faith' with all of the professional investigators looking dispassionately on the situation and trying to find faults with the pilots in order to get out of having their organisation take responsibility for an act of God. Even in a situation where no lives were lost the simple possibility that it could happen causes the company (and the individuals within it!) to panic. Especially with the media ramping up the peril and slavering over the possible fatality angle (which is probably the reason for the passenger who tries to swim for shore before turning back to the raft and almost dying from hypothermia being the figure who came close enough to death to destroy Sully's reputation through no fault of his own) on the one hand; and on the other deifying the pilots and passengers by granting them the great honour of sitting them down for an audience in the presence of David Letterman himself.

However more than external pressures (which I would argue that the film never really treats too seriously, more just overblown bureaucracy having to go through the motions), its more about internal doubts and fears of Sully himself being his own worst enemy by doubting himself (even when he can flashback to all of his achievements and proficiencies from childhood, to tackling a similar situation in a fighter jet as a younger man, to the actual incident itself with perfect filmic clarity). It might be PTSD after an extreme experience or perhaps more just a general anxiety for his own welfare if anything happens to hurt a passenger or crew member on his watch, which itself would impact on his career too.

That itself nicely fits into the other subplot about computer simulations being able to prove that Sully could have landed the plane back at LaGuardia safely. In the calm and collected attitude of the testers in the simulations and the faith in computers it is not understanding the pressures and dangers in the heat of the moment that cause people to make the best decisions they possibly can but which might not be the textbook responses they 'should' have had. I quite liked that even when they get forced to have to factor '35 seconds of human response' into the simulation it still involves the simulation pilots sitting there impassively waiting out the clock rather than the shock of the bird strike and attempting to figure out what exactly had happened as in the real event. 'Luckily' that 35 seconds is enough to make a safe landing at the airport logistically impossible and prove Sully's point, but I think the most important thing that it is still disregarding the human element of being able to keep collected under pressure.

In a way it all comes down to a similar idea to the one that suggests that statistics can be twisted to mean anything that you want them to. In this case the retrospective, dispassionate approach to the situation is the thing that is in danger of twisting the responses of the investigators who just cannot understand what it is like to be caught up in something in the heat of the moment. The computer simulations are not inherently bad, but they are dispassionate and creating an aura of safe distance that does not recreate the tension to the same extent, so putting too much emphasis on them is potentially allowing for someone to say it would have been easy to just change direction to land at the airport instead of doing a water landing.

Psychological trauma can be present even in a hero still feeling that he could have been the fault, and people may be ready to capitalise on that (kind of the corporation versus the individual situation). Especially when they can possibly say that you are acting as a maverick by not following procedure and official protocols (disobeying a computer which holds the official company line sacrosanct - come to think of it isn't that one of the subplots of RoboCop 2?), which could be treated as the most egregious crime of all. Reckless endangerment because 'you think you know best', which might be seen as the most awful thing that an employee could do, when really that is why we have human pilots in the first place - to be able to respond and react in an intense, unexpected situation to the best of their ability. Preventing someone like a pilot (or a soldier, I suppose) from acting according to their best judgment is something the film appears to be warning against. If there is one, the main 'flaw' of this film is that Sully is eventually proved to be entirely right about the left engine and there is no question that he is a hero. Likely if the real situation had not had that corroborating evidence to back it up we would never be watching the film celebrating Sully's heroism now, and this is one case where the person under scrutiny was vindicated and valourised. But what about those who never get that corroboration and are left to mull over their fears in their heads for the rest of their lives? That maybe they 'know' that they did the right thing but everyone else 'knows' they did not, and they just have to accept the official line one way or the other. I would agree with the film that the fact that this particular story ends well is down to the skill of all of those involved (and the courage of the passengers too in not panicking in the situation), but there is also just as much of an element of blind luck that events played out the way that they did that I think goes relatively unexamined by the film in its focus on telling a more uplifting story.

All of those internal ponderings about 'what could have beens' seem crucial to the themes of the film in that sense, because even though the visualisations of Sully's thoughts and remembrances are arguably crass over literal visualisations (themselves just a more advanced CGI version of the plane simulators later in the film, and that is arguably the whole purpose of Eastwood's film, of returning the viscerally emotional firsthand impact to something we are distanced from through the news media reporting) they are performing an important function. Particularly the scene in the very opening sequence where instead of crashing into the Hudson, the plane actually downs in the city instead, causing much greater loss of life. Its kind of an audacious way to start off the film though, because it gets straight to the thing that is presumably what has attracted most audiences to come into the theatre to see the film in the first place: the chance to see the spectacle of a 'safe' plane crash where no lives were lost. Only in this case it happens interrupted by the opening credits and culminating in a shockingly violent towards the viewer 'is this what you want?', 9/11-esque surprise of events playing out very differently to the story we all know from the newspaper headlines, only to then reveal it is your classic night terror moment on the part of the traumatised main character in the aftermath of the slightly more benign event. In having that nightmare visualisation of the ultimate worse case scenario put front and centre from the very opening frames of the film we kind of already feel allied with Sully (arguably are too biased to his viewpoint!) in being certain that doing the water landing on the Hudson was always the best course of action, because even if that left engine had been working and there was the possibility of landing at LaGuardia safely all along, the slightest possibility of not being able to have done so and crashing into the city, causing a much greater and guaranteed loss of life on the ground, was just a risk not worth taking. At least with the water landing there was only the danger to the passengers on the plane to be concerned about.

(There is also that implied question about whether it is really the best thing to have runways surrounded by built up areas. You might be maximising the amount of available space but you leave nowhere safe from collateral damage in case of an emergency landing. When you have to land in the ocean as the best alternative to endangering a lot more people on the ground, that suggests a different issue that needs to be interrogated rather than the actions of the pilot in the situation)

Anyway I quite enjoyed the film, enough that I can kind of overlook the schmaltz of the Schindler's List-esque ending showing off all the real passengers being celebrated over the end credits. If I have some criticisms it is that I kind of think that the Laura Linney wife subplot was the most contrived element of the film (I have not seen American Sniper as yet, but itsn't that entirely about the impact on the 'woman at home'?), using that character as a bit too blunt of a mouthpiece to express some of the concerns verbally that really the audience should already have gotten via other means. I am not sure I particularly needed to care about Sully being a buy to let landlord running into financial difficulties due to a vacant space with no tenants costing him money and few new tenants due to the post financial crash state of the economy in general. Or to spell out that if the hearing goes badly and it is not found in his favour that Sully might lose his job and be pension-less. Or most egregiously her character calling Sully to let him know that it had just hit her that 155 people on that plane came close to death. However one aspect I did like about those scenes are that In all of those situations it feels like Sully is the one who is both going through these fears most directly and also in that strange position of having to placate someone arguably less affected but belatedly having the potentially dire situation hit them. Whilst I have qualms about needing those scenes to underline things for the audience, I can kind of relate to Sully's position there!

Also, did anyone else notice that Eastwood did a Hitchcock-style cameo by appearing on one of the Times Square billboards during Sully's midnight jogs?
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:47 am, edited 17 times in total.

darren17
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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#17 Post by darren17 » Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:33 pm

Excellent point about the blind luck involved and the uncertainty of decisions even when then turn out well. Sully certainly floats interesting themes out there but ultimately it never really deals with them in depth. In the end I found it an enjoyable watch, but if it had more focus it could have been more satisfying.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#18 Post by Nasir007 » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:41 pm

I appreciate the scene for how calmly it depicts such an extraordinary event. I don't remember if there is blaring music or anything. It shows it to you fairly dispassionately. Not quite Bresson or Haneke but you get the idea. Petzold is another modern film-maker who seems to practice this approach. Showing dramatic events with simple setups and calm staging and regular editing and unnoticeable music. For me as a viewer, it actually enhances the drama.

Eastwood has been following this approach a lot of late. This approach ultimately does lean on the scenario a bit - drama has to be inherent in the story otherwise the film can seem flat but Eastwood has mostly succeeded with this minimalist approach. Only I think in 15:17 to Paris did it fail him because the story had no drama at all for the first 95% of the film. But otherwise, he has made remarkably compelling films.

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Re: Sully (Clint Eastwood, 2016)

#19 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Aug 29, 2020 8:55 pm

darren17 wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 7:33 pm
Excellent point about the blind luck involved and the uncertainty of decisions even when then turn out well. Sully certainly floats interesting themes out there but ultimately it never really deals with them in depth.
"Floats interesting themes but never deals with them in depth" :)

It is interesting in the way that whilst the film is unambiguously celebrating Sully there is a lot of space there for things to just feel out of his hands, and Tom Hanks' performance does a lot to add a bit of complicated 'what if?' factor to the drama. If the plane had sunk faster, or that guy attempting to swim to shore had drowned either there or on trying to get back to a raft, would that have made Sully any less of an admirable character than having kept everyone alive? That moment of Sully desperately searching the sinking plane in case there are any other passengers still on board that may have been accidentally missed speaks to that anxiety, I think. Of doing the best you can in the circumstances but some things just being up in the air. In this more optimistic portrait everything works out but its not all entirely down to Sully's actions that everyone survived (but its not really his fault if people had died either, despite something like that happening having the potential to completely destroy his life, both mentally and career-wise. Even becoming a bona fide hero with nothing to apologise for is almost mentally destroying him in wondering if he could have handled things better) and I think that's really what his anxiety is stemming most from. That he does not deserve either all the plaudits or all the blame for the event - he is just doing his job to the best of his ability and relying on the behaviour of everyone around him to also be cool in a crisis - but we are living in a world that feels as if it only views things (only wants to view things) in those polarising extremes and needs a singular hero or villain to headline things.

I mean even though the big corporation investigating Sully's actions and looking to cover their losses seems callous at first even that eventually gets humanised to a certain extent when the investigators are all moved to tears in the hearing when they have their eyes belatedly opened to the facts of the matter, so the film is even going (a bit too much, in my opinion!) against the idea that the organisations themselves are inherently to blame as well, at least to a certain extent.

I think that does add some interesting nuances beneath what on the surface is a completely celebratory profile of a figure involved in a current event. Though I did wonder to myself when that other passenger panicked and decided to dive into the water from standing on the wing as to whether any of the passengers had seen Titanic before. Everyone knows that even if the ship is sinking you stay on it until the last possible moment and then get Leonardo Di Caprio to drown in your place instead!

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