Steady at the Helm – Sully and the Number 35

sully

As a film Director Clint Eastwood chooses to be steady and follow conventional paths.  This approach has served him (as a Director) and us (as viewers) well. As an Actor Tom Hanks knows how to play the common-man under duress who ultimately possesses uncommon stamina, staying power and heroic traits.  Combine these two with the story of Chesley Sullenberger and you end up with a film almost all movie goers would say is engaging.

Sully includes a forced water-landing – not a crash according to Sullenberger – in its storyline, but the focus of the film lies elsewhere.  Screenwriter Tom Kormanicki (Prefect Stranger, Resistance) using the book Highest Duty by Sullenberger and the late Jeffrey Zazlow (60 Minutes), centers on the people and events associated with Sully before and after the crash. Kormanicki’s script creates a narrative and voice that is as steady as Eastwood’s directing and Hanks acting.  Sully presents second guessing and challenges to overcome – prior to and after the crash – both internal and external.  These aspects make for the creative drama in Sully.  Some you will expect to see revealed, others you might find surprising.  The result is a film that feels human.

Eastwood’s Directorial treatments as it relates to the female character have never been his strength.  Historically women are either weak and needy or wicked and conniving in almost all Eastwood directed films and it shows again in Sully. The terrific actress Laura Linney is portrayed as a monochromatic needy plot device.  This role and performance feel perfunctory in nature and almost plug and play in execution.

The record books show the air-event took 202 seconds from lift-off to forced landing and the rescue took 24 minutes.  There are 35 seconds of which will prove crucial on a number of fronts.  These 35 seconds are played to perfection in terms of movie timing and if you pay close attention depicted correctly to the second.

Jeff’s Worthless Trivia

Traditionally if Eastwood skimps or lacks focus to detail on anything in a film – it is location and production values. This is not to say, Eastwood is Ed Wood Plan Nine from Outer-Space bad – but he aint’ the industry’s visionary and leader on this front. However, Sully is a pleasant surprise in this respect.  The aircraft, crash and rescue scenes in Sully are pretty compelling.

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The Cockpit scene in Plane Nine from Outer-Space uses the exact same shower-curtain my brother Roger had in his apartment while in college.

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My brother Dave says turn over the salad plate and coffee cup of 1950’s everyday china and you have the invasion scene in Plan Nine from Outer-Space.

I tip my hat to Clint on the 35 second thing.  Yet, I love films that have timed detonations or time/space sequences where in supposedly real-time film action the event takes longer (or shorter) than the countdown period or logical distance.  In other words the 10 minute countdown takes 45 minutes in supposedly real-time action on film or the one-mile run takes 11 seconds.  The record setter for creative license on this front?  The Fast & Furious 6.

I believe, the otherwise fabulous and over-the-top 13 minute and four second Russian Transport Airplane takeoff on the runway scene sets the industry standard.  The longest paved runway in the world is in China (3.4 miles in length) and the takeoff scene is not set at the runway in China.  However if you do the math, the runway in the film is almost 29 miles in length.  Talk about government project overruns?

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