For a re­view of “Sully,”

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The sight of a pas­sen­ger plane along the sky­line of New York is an im­age that has been seared in the global col­lec­tive con­scious­ness. It’s a mem­ory that “Sully,” Clint East­wood’s new film, ac­knowl­edges, but also at­tempts to re­de­fine. What if a plane skimming sky­scrapers could con­jure an im­age not just of unimag­in­able ter­ror, but one of in­cred­i­ble hero­ism and skill? That’s what “Sully” might ac­com­plish, in com­mit­ting to film the heart­warm­ing story of “The Mir­a­cle on the Hudson,” when Cap­tain Ch­es­ley “Sully” Sul­len­berger made a forced wa­ter land­ing on the Hudson River with 155 pas­sen­gers aboard a U.S. Air­ways flight to Char­lotte.

East­wood is an ef­fi­cient, re­strained and me­thod­i­cal film­maker, an ap­proach that lends well to the tem­per­a­ment and char­ac­ter of Sully, as he is por­trayed by Tom Hanks. What’s re­mark­able about the in­ci­dent as we see it on screen, is just how calm ev­ery­one re­mains through­out the 208 se­cond or­deal. Per­haps be­cause they didn’t know just how amaz­ing this feat would be, but also be­cause ev­ery­one is just do­ing their jobs very, very well. From the air traf­fic controller to the ferry cap­tains to Sully him­self, along with his First Of­fi­cer Jeff Sk­iles (Aaron Eck­hart) and the flight at­ten­dants, ev­ery player is pro­fes­sional, mo­ti­vated and ex­ceed­ingly help­ful.

Help­ful­ness is a sim­ple con­cept, but a pow­er­ful one, and “Sully” cap­tures the essence of what made the Mir­a­cle on the Hudson so grip­pingly in­spir­ing. It’s a won­der­ful New York story, and East­wood takes care to make it a story about the many dif­fer­ent peo­ple who made it a mir­a­cle. That is the emo­tional core of the film, a cel­e­bra­tion of the sim­ple act of reach­ing out a help­ing hand with­out a se­cond thought.

East­wood pop­u­lates the cast with a host of New York char­ac­ter ac­tors, from rec­og­niz­able faces such as Michael Ra­pa­port and Holt McCal­lany and Mike O’Mal­ley, along with other less rec­og­niz­able but no less au­then­tic faces. There’s a spe­cial kind of magic about a New York story where the big city sud­denly be­comes a small town over some strange or freak or serendip­i­tous event, and East­wood cap­tures that.

The con­flict of “Sully” is not the heart­warm­ing story splashed across the cover of the New York Post, it’s the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and hear­ing by the Na­tional Trans­porta­tion Safety Board, out to de­tect any hu­man er­ror in the 208 sec­onds, on be­half of the air­lines and their in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. It proves dif­fi­cult for re­luc­tant hero Sully to em­brace his own hero­ism when be­hind closed doors he’s be­ing grilled about his per­sonal life, con­fronted with com­puter sim­u­la­tions and data that demon­strate he could have made a land­ing at an air­port. Cou­pled with his own trau­matic mem­o­ries and night­mares of the event, it’s hard for him to ac­cept the hero la­bel.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, Sully urges the board to con­sider the hu­man el­e­ment — the hu­mans mak­ing de­ci­sions un­der duress, not com­puter sim­u­la­tions. “Sully” is about a hero, and a story that en­thralled a na­tion des­per­ate for good news, but it’s more about that in­tan­gi­ble hu­man el­e­ment. Good peo­ple do­ing their jobs thought­fully and at the height of their abil­i­ties, work­ing to­gether un­der un­prece­dented and ex­tra­or­di­nary cir­cum­stances. Some­times all of those things come to­gether to cre­ate a mir­a­cle, and “Sully” is a warm re­minder of that.

“Sully,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong lan­guage. Run­ning time: 96 min­utes.

“The Wild Life”

The tale of Robin­son Cru­soe, loosely based on the real life ex­pe­ri­ences of cast­away Alexan­der Selkirk, has been told for hun­dreds of years, since Daniel De­foe’s 1719 epis­to­lary novel. But what if Cru­soe’s story had been seen from the per­spec­tive of the an­i­mals and lo­cal wildlife he en­coun­tered dur­ing his ship­wrecked stay on a trop­i­cal is­land? That’s what the an­i­mated fea­ture “The Wild Life,” di­rected by Vincent Kesteloot, imag­ines.

“The Wild Life” is pro­duced by Nwave Pic­tures, a Bel­gian an­i­ma­tion stu­dio, and the film has a dif­fer­ent feel than most of the heav­ily joke-driven an­i­mated fea­tures pro­duced state­side. There’s much more of a his­tor­i­cal ac­tion-ad­ven­ture sto­ry­line in the telling of Cru­soe’s story, as re­lated by cu­ri­ous par­rot Mak, or Tues­day (David Howard) as Cru­soe calls him.

In­trepid English car­tog­ra­pher Cru­soe (Yuri Lowen­thal) is aboard a ship with his dog Ayns­ley (Doug Stone) when a storm wrecks his boat on a tiny speck of an is­land, and the crew aban­dons him be­low deck. Strug­gling to sur­vive, he soon be­friends the cu­ri­ous Tues­day, and his skep­ti­cal group of ex­otic is­land an­i­mal pals, in­clud­ing a chameleon, hedge­hog, tapir, goat, pan­golin and a very sus­pi­cious sea bird. Af­ter un­easily forg­ing an al­liance with the out­sider, the an­i­mals soon em­brace Cru­soe as one of their own, and the group bands to­gether to fight off a nasty crew of stray ship cats, or “rat­ters” who are hell-bent on re­venge and/or hunt­ing the an­i­mals for a snack.

There are some very im­pres­sive el­e­ments of the an­i­ma­tion — the roil­ing waves dur­ing a storm, crys­tal clear waters and whip­ping jun­gle leaves are all ren­dered al­most photo re­al­is­ti­cally. The an­i­mals are also ex­cel­lently de­signed, par­tic­u­larly Pango the pan­golin and Epi the hedge­hog, who roll them­selves into tight balls for speed of move­ment. The cam­era plunges through the chambers of Cru­soe’s tree house and through­out caves and along their wa­ter slide dur­ing chase scenes that are in­cred­i­bly well-staged and crafted, if a bit un­en­gag­ing.

That’s a bit of a prob­lem with the whole film. With­out much hu­mor, and with a very straight­for­ward story, there isn’t a lot to hook you into the tale, leav­ing one a bit cold to­ward the char­ac­ters. There’s a mes­sage about ac­cept­ing out­siders with­out judg­ment and work­ing to­gether as a team, and some strange sub­text about a prim­i­tive is­land life ver­sus a civ­i­lized one (which in­volves guns, weapons, and eco­nomic ex­ploita­tion — a pi­rate’s life!), but it’s all quite ob­vi­ously pre­sented with­out much com­pli­ca­tion, aside from those pesky cats, an easy vil­lain.

While the an­i­mal char­ac­ters are fun to watch for their var­i­ous abil­i­ties, the hu­mans are a bit stiffer. Cru­soe is the most fluid and well-char­ac­ter­ized, a gan­gly gin­ger who soon turns into a sun­burned is­land wild man with a bushy mop of hair and beard. The pi­rates he en­coun­ters are a bit stilted. They are a ruth­less, blood­thirsty and swash­buck­ling bunch, but they’re far less in­trigu­ing and en­gag­ing than the an­i­mals aboard the ship, pos­si­bly be­cause the ar­ti­fice is more ob­vi­ous.

“The Wild Life” is a fam­i­lyfriendly take on the story of Cru­soe with a twist, and no doubt kids will be drawn to the color­ful an­i­mal char­ac­ters, but with­out enough char­ac­ter­i­za­tion in the writ­ing, there’s a lack of emo­tional con­nec­tion in the story that makes the film just an­other car­toon flick, not a spe­cial fa­vorite or an­i­mated clas­sic.

“The Wild Life,” an Nwave Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG for mild ac­tion/peril and some rude hu­mor. Run­ning time: 90 min­utes.


David Howard pro­vides the voice of cu­ri­ous par­rot Mak and Yuri Lowen­thal the voice of Cru­soe in the Nwave Pic­tures re­lease “The Wild Life.”

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