Director: Clint Eastwood
In January 2009 the headlines were dominated by the footage of a US Airways plane on the Hudson River in New York. The airline had suffered from engine damage not long after taking off when a flock of birds flew into the engines forcing the landing. There wasn’t enough time to turn the plane around and land on one of the available runways, so pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had no choice but to crash land the plane on the famous river saving the lives of all 155 passengers on board.
Clint Eastwood’s film focuses on the story surrounding the aftermath of the incident as an inquest is held with the firm belief that the plane could have turned and landed at a nearby airport avoiding the need to crash and destroy the airline. Sully discovers that he doesn’t just have to deal with the nightmares of the incident that begin to dominate his life, but the accusations made against him which question his 42 year career as a pilot.
The film is based on the autobiography “Highest Duty” written by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow and is cleverly patterned with the integration of sequences which highlight the effects that the incident had on Sully, despite his hero status. Tom Hanks takes the lead role of Sully complete with white hair and moustache and it is extremely difficult to tell the real Sully from the actor. Hanks, as always, gives a performance of such magnitude that it is no surprise that he is ranked as one of the world’s best actors, but he does so in a manner which seems so easy for him to portray. The subtle nature of his mannerisms are magnetised to an Oscar worthy performance once again, but, as the story suggests, he isn’t the only hero. Aaron Eckhart plays the role of First Officer Jeff Skiles who, alongside Hanks, really brings out a performance of true talent offering some of the movies more comedic moments, but also displaying the support and friendship he had with Sully. Laura Linney plays the role of Sully’s wife and despite the two sharing no screen time, she plays the fact that she has to try and struggle to support her husband from a distance encouragingly well.
The scene of the plane crash landing and the subsequent panic that follows is up there with some of Hollywood’s finest moments and Eastwood really encapsulates on the tension, despite us all knowing the outcome. Away from the action, it really is the story of what happens next that draws the interest in the movie and the experience and knowledge that Sully had which he uses to defend himself. The fact that he could be even questioned on his actions was ludicrous enough and he earns his stature as a hero with great modesty and shares the wealth with those alongside him.
With the announcement of the 2017 Oscar nominations just weeks away, there is no doubt that this will be up there among the contenders and, even possibly, earn the famous golden statue in the process.
It is during the opening sequence of American Sniper where we discover the true intensity of the movie. Marine Chris Kyle is positioned at the top of an abandoned building in Iraq, his rifle is positioned and we are looking through the telescopic sight first at an Iraqi soldier and then the attention is drawn to the ground where a mother and her son emerge from a building, the son clutches something to his chest under his jacket as his mother whispers instructions. The boy then sets off running towards Kyle’s fellow American troops and Kyle’s finger is poised on the trigger…
The beauty of Clint Eastwood’s direction is the level of intensity he can produce from a moment such as that, but the true story of Chris Kyle is depicted brilliantly not just through the direction, but through the story and the acting. Eastwood has taken the focus of the story and balanced it between the war in Iraq and a normal life for a soldier returning home, which is anything but. The main part of the movie is in Kyle’s difficulty to separate his home life from the life he risks everyday fighting in the war. His decision to join the marines came to him through his father predominantly. His father would teach him and his brother to stand up to bullies and be strong and this is what exactly, as young men, they chose do. When the Twin Towers were attacked in 2001 this form of ‘bullying’ spurred Kyle on to want to fight and it was soon evident his skills lay in using a rifle.
Chris Kyle had four tours of Iraq and the movie follows each one of them and also the life he shared at home with his wife and children. Like most soldiers returning from active duty, the adjustment to a life at home is difficult with everyday noises drawing dark memories to his life in conflict. In Iraq, Kyle is witness to the brutality of the enemy and an unknown assailant, also useful with a rifle, is his main target. The price on his head from the Iraqi’s is substantial, but the bounty refuses to deter Kyle in his mission to capture Osama Bin Laden’s number two and bring an end to the war.
Bradley Cooper portrays the role of Chris Kyle in a performance that has seen him nominated for an Oscar and understandably so too. Although Cooper performs superbly, I don’t think this is his strongest performance to date. Certainly not in comparison to Silver Linings Playbook in which he was also nominated. Sienna Miller is almost unrecognisable as Kyle’s wife, Taya, in a strong role in which the depiction of her struggles with her life married to a marine is executed superbly with the emotional distress that any woman in her position would go through. It is one of the best roles I have seen her in.
My admiration goes fully to Clint Eastwood. A master in his field both in front of and behind the camera he shows no signs of letting up, even at 84 years of age. The pace and passion of the story is sublime and Eastwood doesn’t hold back for some of the more uncomfortable scenes of life that is happening every single day as our soldiers fight. The drama and intensity are with us throughout the whole movie and supported by a wonderful cast you can see how this has been nominated for best picture at the Oscars. I personally am not sure it has the strength to go on and win, but it is still an exhilarating experience not to be passed up.