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In its send-off text, Sully notes that on January 15th 2009, “The best of New York came together.” Apt and truthful words, despite the prior 90-minutes twisting that ideology into a bizarre us-vs-them anti-government lashing.
It’s not difficult to parse Sully, often rambling or recycling events to fill time. Chelsey Sullenberger’s remarkable display of calm, experience, and piloting as he landed a commercial aircraft onto the Hudson River plays out no less than three times. More if Sullenberger’s self-doubting “what if?” scenarios are included in the count.
Sully feels rotten rather than uplifting
Sully feels rotten rather than uplifting
For a story so rich in Patriotic might and the celebration of 155 saved lives, Clint Eastwood takes the piece in an off-putting, moody frame. Invested more in exposing the media’s methods and overdone government investigations than the pilot its named after, Sully feels rotten rather than uplifting. It’s a movie which first must parade spite and bile, satisfying only in the sense this emotionally collected pilot finally flattening his superiors in front of hundreds at a public hearing.
As opposed to authentic, Sully feels inherently staged and theatrically exaggerated, a film made to share Eastwood’s gravely politics than a hero’s story. A cab driver pulls out a newspaper to note Sullenberger’s actions were, “a bright spot,” before chastising the war and economic fallout of Obama’s first years. Government oversight committees come staged as literal machines. Sully must remind them of the human element missing from their calculations.
Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) feels secondary in his own movie. Disinterested flashbacks fill in the pilot’s backstory for the sake of runtime while underdeveloped domestic issues feel entirely unneeded. If Sully’s lacking development, Mike O’Malley’s role as head of the NTSB comes pre-determined – a jerk who would dare ask questions of a hero.
Sully needs conflict because the true story didn’t have any. The events didn’t need a multi-million dollar movie either. The made-for-TV-turned-theatrical-release pop-up genre (Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day, Captain Phillips all included) necessitated the likes of Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart for Sully.
It used to be these films starred a single aging actor, well past their prime, with a cast of nobody behind them. They aired at 8PM on NBC, filmed with such rapid turn-around after the breaking news as to dazzle any filmmaking crew. With a little more leeway, a push into IMAX, Clint Eastwood directing, and sizable cast, now they’re enormous productions. With that, it’s easy to see the exploitation of a story, contorted and stretched to feature length, but distorted enough to fit into the director’s pre-conceived ideas.
Captured digitally with the Arri Alexa 65, Sully came to theaters ready for IMAX distribution. At home, while the color palette choices often degrade the impact, Sully produces extraordinary definition. Superior fidelity coasts through the film, with well-rendered close-ups and marvelous shots of New York, day or night.
Digital noise crops up in an early sequence of Hanks running with a sunset behind him. Minor noise elsewhere is subtle enough to feel like 65mm film grain. Warner’s encode does well to stave off any compression errors.
Sully plays with a few different palettes, if all muted. In the plane, blues take hold. Flesh tones follow. In meetings, Sully takes a certain gray tone, washing out primaries. In more domestic situations, this odd glowing hue imprints onto the piece, not unlike Ghostbusters this year, if to a slightly lesser extreme.
Despite the general dullness of color, contrast remains pure. Black levels sink deep and highlights bolster the visible depth. It’s appealing, even without the assistance of saturation.
Here’s an unexpected 2016 winner. Hammering the low-end and offering judicious use of the surround channels, the scope of this TrueHD/Atmos offering is stunning. Constantly noting locations, whether inside the cockpit or outside in New York, the enveloping effect of the audio is more real than the story itself.
Audio needs an immediate unpacking as the title logos blast generous LFE activity alongside sweeping motion of jets passing by. The feeling of being inside the plane soon after is faultless.
The multiple recreations of the crash landing offer channel specific activities from left or right engines blowing out. Once in the water, the sinking effect is complete with groaning metal and rushing liquid. Additional low-end adds to the drama.
Only a handful of extras here, but they’re exceptional. Moment by Moment follows the entire path of flight prior to the crash, as told by those who were there. Man Behind the Miracle deals exclusively with Sullenberger and his life. Those looking for making of info can cue up Neck Deep in the Hudson. All together, these add up to near an hour, on average about 18-minutes each.
Clint Eastwood injects an unnecessary slant into the story of Sully, a repetitive retelling of the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
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