Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Todd Komarnicki
Cinematographer: Tom Stern
Producer: Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Allyn Stewart, and Tim Moore
by Jon Cvack
It’s a movie like this that leaves you wondering how the man who directed Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Mystic River could take such a drastic dive; not with the story (more on that in a second) so much as the overall feel. Here’s a movie where, aside from special effects, plays like a Hallmark Film, with humor so superficial it almost seems like a joke.
For those of you who somehow don’t know, airline Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed in the Hudson after a flock of birds flew into their plane, destroying both engines, requiring emergency maneuvers. While some pilots might have wanted to try and get to the half dozen airports scattered around the area, Sully knew that it was far too risky. What I didn’t know was that there was allegedly a lot of debate over the facts - did the engines actually fail? Could he have made it to another airport?
The movie opens up days after the miracle landing, as Sully (Tom Hanks) and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) sit before an airline tribunal who reveal that their computer simulators produced different results - in which given the circumstances, they could have successfully landed at a different airport, meaning Sully needlessly risked everyone aboard the plane. So now the hero is possibly going to become the villain, simply because of what he describes as the “human element” that made him take the risk, based upon 40 years of flying experience (human risk being the delay in response when an emergency strikes).
The primary issue is that Tom Hanks is so great at playing the Good Man that I can’t imagine a single person even considering that Sully was at all lying. I kept getting the impression that I was seriously suppose to believe that he might have made a stupid decision. Yet even if that’s true, every single person survived, meaning the villain in such a situation wouldn’t be Sully for making the wrong decision, so much as the Airline for demonizing the man to save a few bucks. Of course, the computer simulations were wrong, and in the closing scene, after Sully demands a human to test against the computers and we witness their bias in the experiment, along with ignoring the human “oh shit” factor that might limit an immediate, clear decision, we see that sure enough this perfect guy was right all along. Except I never doubted it. No one did. Either because we knew the story, or because the character is portrayed as so perfect and noble that I couldn’t imagine him lying.
The larger issue is precedent, as this film is basically combining the most boring parts of Flight and Captain Phillips; as though believing that those films and characters were so great that maybe they should try and do something similar without all the cinematic stuff. The conflict we’re left with is Tom Hanks calling his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney) over and over again and later admitting that the worst thing he’s ever done was embellishing his professional experience on a website for a future aviation consulting business he hoped to start. Jeff Skiles is even more bland, having never had a sip of alcohol in his life, and making such wise cracks as when they’re both finally vindicated in the final scene, and he’s asked if he could change anything about the landing, he comes up with the zinger, “Yeah I would have had the landing take place in July” haha! → FADE TO BLACK.
I didn’t know the Sully story when I saw Flight, but the influence was obvious. I saw the creative juices flowing, as a writer for that film wondered, ‘What if Sully actually was an alcoholic?’ I didn’t love where that film went, but at least Denzel’s character had flaws. And that’s not to say that a historical narrative should add color, so much as I don’t understand the point of telling it at all. And yet it’s when I look at the Wikipedia article and see the National Transportation Safety Board’s review was depicted rather unfairly, as according to the New York Times, the inquiry was strictly by the books, that I get more annoyed.
I saw the film while in Austin on a production, providing my first visit to an Alamo Drafthouse, and the woman exiting out in front of me said it best - it seemed like a very drawn out way to tell this story. This movie’s only 97 minutes. It’s the shortest Eastwood film ever made, leaving me wondering if they added Sully’s crash fantasies simply as a way to get it over the 90 minute mark.
The whole thing felt like a cookie cutter Made-for-TV Hallmark movie, with flat characters, a flatter look, and an uninspired action sequence. To think it was an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes by Critics, and an 89% by Viewers just goes to show the sad state of cinema. It seemed like a pointless movie to make.
BELOW: All other criticism aside, this was a pretty good scene
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