Sully – Review

3 Stars

Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Captain Chelsea ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (the ever-reliable Tom Hanks), the pilot who miraculously landed a plane on the Hudson River in New York, saving the lives of all one hundred and fifty-five people on board.

Sully bares an unsurprising resemblance to Robert Zemeckis’ Flight, a film that told the fictional story of a pilot’s miraculous landing of a plane and the tough investigation that followed. While Sully carries (some of) the emotional weight of being a true story of a real-life hero, its well-known, successful conclusion means it lacks any real narrative tension throughout the film. The crash scenes themselves, the clear highlights of the film, are both intense and powerful. However, these scenes are not enough to carry a film (the actual event only lasted just over 200 seconds), and therefore the rest of the film follows the investigation into Captain Sullenberger’s actions. Before I watched it myself, I had already heard that Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki had added false sense of drama to the investigation by portraying the investigators as harsh, unfair, and out to blame Sully (I have attached a couple of articles on this subject below).  This suggests that Eastwood felt the true events were not dramatic enough to make an engaging film. The main problem with what Eastwood adds, aside from being untrue, is that it’s not very dramatic anyway. It feels unnecessary, and takes away from the true heroics of the story. The film could’ve spent more time delving into Sully as a person, as well as his co-pilot, played by Aaron Eckhart, or even the passengers. These people have experienced something truly remarkable yet the film wastes its short run time on hearings and simulations.

Other than this huge misstep, Sully is a solidly made film. Tom Hanks does what he does best. Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney are both terrific, if underused. As mentioned earlier, there are multiple scenes of the water landing which are particularly moving, and made the film worth a watch. Sully certainly isn’t a bad film, and certain moments are great, but these few moments are not enough to excuse the false, and frankly quite dull, take on the investigation.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/08/sully-movie-gets-it-wrong-hudson-river-crashs-real-life-investigators-say/

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/sep/12/sully-clint-eastwood-hudson-river-plane-crash-ntsb

La La Land – Review

5 Stars

Ever since it premiered at the Venice Film last summer, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land has been riding a wave of hype and excitement that may well culminate in a Best Picture Oscar win in this year’s Academy Awards. The film shares many of the themes – dreams, ambition and most importantly, jazz – as Chazelle’s previous film, the masterful Whiplash. However, unlike his terrifyingly intense drama, La La Land is charming, funny and bursting with joy.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star together as a wannabe actress and wannabe jazz club owner, who, after a few odd and surprising meetings, fall for each other. The chemistry between the two is perfect and really carries the romantic aspect of the film, making it both believable and charming. Ryan Gosling has proven himself as a more than capable comic actor in recent years (The Big Short and The Nice Guys are two of my favourites) and he delivers many of La La Land’s best laughs. Emma Stone has been widely praised by critics, and for good reason, delivering an award worthy performance that is not only sweet and funny, but also reflects how most of us feel about our dreams and aspirations; full of both hope and fear.

Set in L.A., La La Land, is both a love letter to the city and a movie that teases the culture of Hollywood. The camera picks up the stunning backgrounds and the bold colours of the meticulously designed sets, making the city another engaging character. But the film also likes to poke fun, with cheeky jokes that place Hollywood, acting and celebrities as their punchlines.

The music numbers are catchy, fun and are all choreographed and filmed beautifully. They follow the feel of the story well but none of them truly jumped out as musical classics. The soundtrack is worth the purchase if you liked the film, and the opening number is sure to be spoofed and copied (as it already has been by the Golden Globes), but after the credits rolled the music didn’t really stay with me like it normally does for a live stage musical. Perhaps this is due to effect that live performance has, and without it there is a little bit of magic missing. However, while the individual songs didn’t quite stay with me, and overall feeling of pure joy did.

Watching La La Land left me with the kind of film-high that comes along far too rarely. Bursting with joy just as the shots are bursting with colour, and the characters bursting with song, La La Land is a triumph that deserves the acclaim it has been receiving. With this and Whiplash under his belt (he’s only actually directed three feature films), Chazelle has truly proven himself a great director and I look forward to seeing what he does next.

 

 

Triple 9 – Review

2 Stars

There were few films released in 2016 that boasted quite the ensemble cast as Triple 9. The cast is riddled with talented names, yet together they are not enough to carry the heist movie out of mediocracy. There is plenty of good points about Triple 9, such as the cast, but every good point is overshadowed by bad one. The result is a mixed bag that provides an enjoyable, but quite flawed, experience.

John Hillcoat’s complex and cluttered crime thriller follows a gang of corrupt cops and ex-military criminals, led by Chiwetel Ejiofor, as they attempt to pull off an ‘impossible’ heist for Kate Winslet’s heavily (and questionably) accented Russian mob boss. A tense and visually intelligent opening caper, featuring some lovely shots of red ink billowing out of a speeding van, makes you feel you may be in for a treat. Street shootouts bring memories of Michael Mann’s Heat, but soon as the dust settles the disappointment kicks in. The viewpoint starts to shift between Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson’s clichéd and troubled detective and Casey Affleck, an incorruptible officer coincidentally paired with one of the criminals (Anthony Mackie).  Any one of these characters could of, and perhaps should have, been the clear and distinct main hero/anti-hero. Instead Hillcoat decides to regularly jump between them, never really giving them enough screen time to fully develop their characters. At the brightest moments, there are flashes of humanity, such as scenes with Mackie and Affleck that reminded me of End of Watch (a prime example of a truly believable relationship between police officers), but these moments are very rare. The result is a cluster of standard and expected character arcs that never really allow you to care about the people in question. At one point, I thought I did almost feel for one of the side characters, but the I realised I knew nothing about him and I just liked a similar, yet much more developed, character the actor had played elsewhere. Just like the three or four main characters, all the actors in supporting roles are spread too thin; Gal Gadot, the new Wonder Woman, is barely in the film for more than 5 minutes and TV superstars Norman Reedus and Aaron Paul are not much better served. All this talented is wasted just to have names on the poster and it’s a real shame.

The action sequences, such as the opening heist and a tense police raid, are well choreographed and do a good job at providing tension and excitement. They are nothing special though, merely solidly made. Some Sicario level tension could have pushed Triple 9 to greater heights, but this level is only grasped at, instead of being embraced.

Overall I had a good time with Triple 9, but I was left feeling that it could have been so much more. Perhaps the scope and complexity of the story in Hillcoat’s mind could have made a thrilling TV show, but instead too much is packed into this movie, resulting in a disappointingly predictable, if at times thrilling, crime caper.