Sully

Director: (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

Tom Hanks plays a pilot in a courtroom tailspin in this arresting real life drama. The two time oscar winner is cannily cast as Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger who astonishingly landed his passenger jet on New York’s Hudson river.

On January 15th 2009, Sully’s inspired flying saved all 155 souls on board. It’s immediately dubbed the Miracle on the Hudson by a media who can’t get enough of the self effacing former US Navy pilot.

Hank’s innate likability and dependable screen presence acts as a shorthand for everyday decency, honesty and courage. There’s an enjoyable chemistry between Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Aaron Eckhart competes in the cockpit to sport the most luxurious moustache.

Following their tremendous piece of aviation skill, the pair are forced to appear on chat shows and are uncomfortable at becoming instant celebrities.

Under Clint Eastwood’s iron directorial grip, the story of heroism is spun into a battle between the individual and a conspiracy of big business and government. The veteran director clearly sides with fly by the seat of your pants intuition against stifling procedure and rules.

The airline’s insurers are unhappy and encourage know-nothing bureaucrats to find a scapegoat. During the investigation into the incident, computer simulations suggest Sully could have flown to a nearby airport to land safely. Facing the loss of their careers, pensions and reputations, the pilots must fight to save themselves.

Airplanes crashing in New York have a recent historical resonance. Rather than shy away from the horror of 9/11, the film embraces it and uses the terrifying imagery of a single crashing plane to express the collective paranoid nightmares of the US.

This is tremendous filmmaking and it’s worth pausing to consider how mass urban destruction was used unthinkingly in Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel (2013). That film is nearly twice as long but has less than half the brains. Its extended scenes of CGI carnage failed to entertain, never mind pass comment of the nation’s psyche.

It’s at this point Sully resonates with Eastwood’s previous film, American Sniper (2015). The pair are are very much a companion piece for each other. This is a another celebration of the pioneer spirit and can-do blue collar heroism, a tribute to the emergency services, of ordinary Americans guys such as ferrymen and cops doing their jobs with selfless bravery.

Considering we know the outcome of the forced water landing – not a crash – the action is surprisingly tense and is shown from the viewpoints of individuals on board and on shore. The accomplished CGI blends seamlessly with the New York skyline, the plane is a  fragile tin can bobbing on the majestic sweep of the vast Hudson river.

The film flies past in a quick 90 minutes with Eastwood directing with his typical no frills style. But far from flying economy, this is first class storytelling all the way.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

London Has Fallen

Director: Babak Najafi (2016)

Take cover as this big, dumb action sequel drops into cinema with the subtle grace of a lead balloon.

Gerard Butler is in age denial mode as Secret Service agent Mike Banning, the kick ass star of Olympus Has Fallen (2013). He knows no fear, mercy or decent banter.

It’s a noisy barrage of gun battles and explosions with torture to break the tedium. Cars collide, helicopters crash and the touristy bit of the capital are trashed.

Impressive physical stunts are undermined by some poor CGI, ridiculous dialogue and unintentionally funny moments.

Following the sudden death of British PM, Banning must leave his pregnant wife behind and postpone his resignation plan to accompany the US President to the state funeral in London.

As global leaders gather to pay their last respects and with the streets of London protected by fighter jets, horses, dogs, armed police and snipers, an army of terrorists launch an attack on the steps of St Paul’s cathedral.

With London transport on lockdown and the emergency services incapacitated through terrorist infiltration, it’s up to Banning to drag the President to safety.

Aaron Eckhart sighs, frowns and worries about being tortured on Youtube. This demonstrates his scant faith in Banning’s abilities to save him.

Back in the US, Morgan Freeman’s Vice President chuckles his way through the crisis and talks about his fishing.

Boro girl Charlotte Riley keeps her native accent as an MI6 agent. Her forthright intensity   is in contrast to the joshing efforts of  to shame.

Moments of social realism break out during lulls in the mayhem. The British cabinet is portrayed as posh, smug and stupid and the Italian PM is seen having a tryst with a woman half his age.

No one should expect political discourse from this determinedly violent and witless entertainment which assumes flag waving and drone strikes are the price of a free West.

Banning’s impassioned invocation of a 1,000 year rule is delivered without thought to historical precedent.

The leaden script pays lip service to the qualities of the British, despite London being taken down in a matter of minutes and Banning elbowing aside an SAS squad to do their job for them.

It also makes laughably sure the audience is painfully up to speed with the thin story.

Air raid sirens warn the population to stay at home. You can’t say you haven’t been warned.