Tag Archives: Laura Linney

Coming In Hot

‘Sully’ signals start of serious fall movie season

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Sully
Starring Tom Hanks & Aaron Eckhart
Directed by Clint Eastwood
PG-13
In theaters Sept. 9, 2016

“Brace for impact.”

Those three words are at the heart of this inspiring big-screen salute to Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, whose successful emergency landing of crippled US Airways Flight 1549 became known around the world in 2009 as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”

Sully makes the “impact” announcement when he realizes there’s no way for his plane—with two failed engines, both destroyed by a massive flock of Canadian geese—to make a conventional landing. The line is later brought up, for much more lighthearted effect, when Sullenberger and his flight crew make a TV appearance alongside late-night host David Letterman.

usp-07014rv2But “Brace for impact” also means for you, the viewer, to hang on and get ready to dig in: Summer is over and a more serious movie season has begun. Based on Sullenberger’s 2009 best-selling memoir Highest Duty, directed by Clint Eastwood and with Tom Hanks in the starring role, Sully gives off somber Oscar signals with its theme of an ordinary, matter-of-fact man simply doing his job—until something extraordinary comes along requiring him to rise up to meet its unprecedented challenge.

“Everything is unprecedented,” Sully notes later, “until it happens for the first time.”

US Airways 1549 was in the sky less than four minutes, and Eastwood’s film toggles back and forth between the incident itself, Sully’s nightmarish flashbacks, and the wrenching post-event investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which drilled and grilled Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (an excellent Aaron Eckhart) on every detail. Was the plane really too damaged to to fly? Did Sully do everything he could to get back to the airport—any airport—instead of risking lives unnecessarily by landing on water? Pilots in computerized flight simulators, fed with data of the incident, indicate that it would have been possible to bring the plane back to LaGuardia, or into nearby Newark, or Teterboro…

“They’re playing Pac-Man!” an exasperated Skiles counters. “[We were] flying a plane full of human beings.”

Laura Linney plays Sullenberger's wife.

Laura Linney plays Sullenberger’s wife.

As the investigation drags on and Sully is hauled before the “court” for days and days, with his career and reputation on the line, the media feasts on his amazing feat—a water “crash” landing from which all 155 passengers and crew members were safely evacuated. And the Big Apple, in the financial dumps of the Great Recession and still reeling from the aftershocks of 9/11, anoints him a hero. A bar names a drink—a shot of Grey Goose with a splash of water—in his honor. Strangers give him hugs and kisses.

“It’s been a while since New York had news this good,” one character tells him, “especially with an airplane in it.”

“I don’t feel like a hero,” Sully says. “I’m just a man who was doing his job.”

usp-fp-0155-for-web-72-cropHanks, his hair dyed white, looks very much like the real-life pilot he’s portraying, a career aviator whose lifelong love of flight—as we see—dates back to boyhood and crop-dusting biplanes. “Never forget,” his first flight teacher tells young Sully in a lesson that certainly reverberated through the years, “no matter what happens, fly the airplane.”

Just a man doing his job, a guy flying a plane, a pilot controlling the stick. Brace for impact—Sully shows us just how important that one “ordinary” person can be, when ordinary circumstances sudden, unprecedentedly, become extraordinary.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Information Breakdown

WikiLeaks drama pounds its story, but becomes too much of a cold slog

Daniel Br?hlThe Fifth Estate

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch & Daniel Brühl

Directed by Bill Condon

R, 128 min.

Earlier this year, I went to a team trivia event where one of the questions was “What is the ‘fourth estate?’

Having a bit of newsprint in my blood, I knew that it was an old British term for “the press.” Our team got the point—hooray for us, right? But what struck me that evening was how many teams were completely stumped for an answer.

Was the term really that arcane, that unfamiliar, that antiquated?

If so, are the people on those teams going to have any idea what The Fifth Estate is, either? And an even bigger question: How interested will they be in seeing this movie, no matter what it’s called?

The Fifth Estate dramatizes the beginnings of WikiLeaks, the cyber-organization that shook up world governments and conventional media by posting highly confidential news from anonymous sources, who “leaked” it from places where it was supposed to be contained, sealed away, secreted. Among other stories, the site released sensitive files about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, about civilians killed by military airstrikes, and about what went on at the notorious prisoner detention center Guantanamo Bay.

The term “fifth estate,” the movie tells us, refers to the way news reporting was shaped by the speed, force—and recklessness—of information zipping around the planet in the new millennium’s digital, instant Internet age. If the old-fashioned printing press was the pillar of the fourth estate, new e-media, spurred by WikiLeaks, became the fifth.

The movie centers on WikiLeak’s Australian founder, Julian Assange, and his contentious, co-dependent relationship with Daniel Berg, the site’s German representative (on whose book, Inside WikiLeaks: My Time at the World’s Most Dangerous Website With Julian Assange, the screenplay is partly based).

FE2Benedict Cumberbatch is mesmerizing as Assange, a blonde-haired cyber warrior crusading to expose fraud, corruption, injustice, war crimes and other sins in high places. Daniel Brühl, who also co-stars in the new movie Rush, is Berg, a young computer hacker whose prankish, anti-establishment sparks are fanned into flames of international activism by Assange’s zeal and heated rhetoric.

Director Bill Condon—whose diverse credentials include the musical Dreamgirls, the Gothic drama Gods and Monsters and two Twilight teen-angst vampire sagas—pumps the story hard, backfilling details of Assange’s damaged childhood; weaving in a difficult romantic relationship for Berg; and inserting a pair of Washington D.C. insiders (Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney) who have to deal with the serious fallout WikiLeaks creates as it puts foreign diplomats, military personnel and their families in danger by revealing their identities.

FE3Was Assange a hero or a traitor? That’s the question the movie wants us to ponder. It also paints him as a cyber rock star, with throngs of fans, followers and groupies. (He’s currently living in London, where he’s been granted diplomatic asylum after a 2010 sexual assault investigation.)

But the movie’s all too much of a slog, I’m afraid, through a story that a lot of viewers will find too heavy on current events and history and too light on entertainment. Like the cold, bleak backdrops of Belgium and Germany, where the filming took place, there’s far too little warmth, wit or movie sunshine to penetrate its overarching sense of its own seriousness.

The movie ends with a faux-documentary segment in which Cumberbatch, as Assange, addresses the audience, as if he’s being interviewed about the movie they’ve just seen. He somewhat dismissively brushes the question away, then looks directly into the camera and tells viewers to become inspired to seek their own truths, to ferret out their own information, to become their own crusading whistle-blowing leak-finders and “look beyond this story.”

That’s assuming, of course, that they see it begin with—which might require a leap of an estate or two beyond a lot of people’s usual areas of interest.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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