SULLY – An Unexpected Journey Into The True American Heart
Trump v Clinton. Black Lives Matter v Blue Lives Matter. LGBT Rights. ISIS-Inspired Attacks. Anything Kanye West. Trump v Clinton (again). Bullying. Left v Right. Matthew v The Southeastern Coast. Batman v Superman.
This is actually the short list. I could make it longer. In looking at it, it’s easy to understand how one could see a bleak, dark, depressing future for America. It wouldn’t be a very big stretch – if any at all – to conclude that the shining light that is the United States is on the road to being eclipsed, or snuffed out altogether.
Looking at the news, reading social media, and listening to friends and family, it would appear that we have all but accepted this fate. After all, cops and civilians are being gunned down in our streets; foreign terrorists are threatening to stab us in our neighborhoods; we haven’t figured out who’s allowed to pee where; and we wonder why our kids are nasty bullies when the people they take their cues from include Real Housewives of Somewhere, USA, and the two people who’ve somehow become our only two choices for President.
It is in this state of the union that my wife Emily and I dared brave the storm and go see a movie. Together. Bad Moms or Sully? Truthfully, I was looking for something uplifting, but Bad Moms wasn’t playing at a close enough theater (something you consider when you have a sick two-year-old). Okay then, Sully it is.
All joking aside, I was expecting a really good film – Clint Eastwood directing Tom Hanks as the Hero of The Hudson… how could it be anything else? – but I wasn’t prepared for how it would hit me.
If you know me, you know that I’m a huge Tom Hanks fan. Not only do I think he’s one of the greatest actors of our time (perhaps all time), but I’m absolutely convinced the man can do no wrong. If I asked you to send me a list of actors that you believed could carry an entire movie with a volleyball and you couldn’t list Tom Hanks, I bet I’d get that list back from you blank. As usual, he didn’t disappoint. Hanks carried the heart and soul of the movie as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, portraying heroism, courage, humanity, compassion and professionalism through every moment. Truly an inspiring performance.
Though Aaron Eckhart’s acting often comes off as deliberate (rather than organic), I’ve always liked him. I thought he was fantastic as 1st Officer Jeff Skiles, who – though a bit more brash and outspoken in his youth (as compared to Hanks’ Sullenberger) – admired and defended Sully’s courage and convictions throughout the process of being investigated by the NTSB (the antagonists of the film, who were portrayed a little bit more “Hollywood” and prosecutorial than was reality). Unlike Sully – who at times believed it was possible he may have made the wrong decision in endangering his passengers with a water landing on the Hudson – Skiles remained convinced throughout the movie that Sully was a hero and did the only thing that could have been done to ensure all passengers survived what could have been an absolute nightmare.
I’m not always a fan of non-linear storytelling, but I think that in this case not only do I agree with Eastwood’s decision to go this route, but I feel that this particular story practically requires it. And that is because Sully is portrayed as having PTSD from the whole experience. He has consistent dreams and visions of the plane crashing into a New York City building – a haunting image in this post-9/11 world, to be sure. This sets up perfectly natural flashback scenes that help flesh out the story and take the audience deeper into the experience, showing us who the protagonist really is and helping the audience to discover the human behind the hero.
But, as Hanks explains at the climax of the movie, he alone was not the hero of this story (and this is where the soul of the movie can be summed up) – the heroes were also Skiles, who trusted his captain and stayed on board with him to the very end (ensuring all passengers had exited the aircraft); the crew of the aircraft who followed proper crash landing and evacuation procedures, and didn’t panic under pressure; the passengers of the craft who followed instructions, cooperated, and helped each other to evacuate the craft in a timely fashion; the ferry and tour boat operators who saw the plane ditched and immediately rushed to their rescue; and the New York Fire and Police Departments who, in committing their own vessels, assisted in the rescue effort.
It was in watching the entire process – from the moment of the bird strike to the rescue of the final passenger (pretty darned close to real-time) – that I found my outlook on America’s future diverging from the dark, bleak and depressing fate we seem inevitably sinking toward, to something truly uplifting and inspiring.
Because the heart of America, the real America, the America that the people actually are, is not about corrupt or sleezy politicians or firefights in the streets; it’s not about racism or sexism or entitlements; it’s not about Left or Right or crony capitalism…
At the end of the day, it’s about helping others; it’s about professionalism; it’s about doing the right thing; it’s about integrity, courage, heart and conviction.
That is the real America.
That is who Americans really are.
And that is why I know we are going to be alright.
One last thing… I’m not voting for Trump or Clinton. I’m voting for my mother.