For a review of “Sully,”
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.”