‘Sully’ & ‘Snowden’ Steal September
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September saw the premiere of two biopics that centered on ordinary men who did the unthinkable. Both made headlines and became the subject of debate as their actions were questioned as either heroic or harmful.
Sully recounts the “Miracle on the Hudson” and the eponymous airline pilot who saved the lives of everyone onboard by making the perilous decision to land in the Hudson River after an engine failure; Snowden depicts the life of the titular former employee of the FBI and NSA who leaked classified articles on the nation’s extensive and shocking surveillance programs.
With Sully, director Clint Eastwood has had a rough reputation with biopics ranging from forgettable (J. Edgar and Jersey Boys) to acceptable (Byrd and American Sniper). The man behind Snowden, Oliver Stone has had little accomplishments with his recent work (Savages and Wall Street: The Money Never Sleeps) and has yet to reach the success of his earlier films (JFK and Platoon).
Enthralling and captivating, Sully stunningly captures the event and aftermath of the extraordinary landing that occurred on January 15, 2009. Tom Hanks delivers a wonderful performance as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who despite not resembling the valiant aviator, disappears into the role perfectly.
Also delivering a good performance is Aaron Eckhart as Jeffrey Skiles, the co-pilot who assisted Sully in the landing as he delivers some funny lines now and then. The story begins after the landing with Sully being hailed a hero by the public but questioned by Nation Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on whether he could have made the landing at an airport instead of the river.
Questions are posed as Sully ponders on whether he did the right thing or could have made a safer decision. The scene that shows the landing and everyone trying to remain alive as the rescue team arrives is so chilling and intense that I felt the cold weather the passengers and crew members were feeling.
More dialogue driven and less action-oriented, Snowden is both an engaging and thought-provoking look at America’s most recent whistleblower. Being a story that has some delicate and controversial issues I can’t think of another director right for the job than Oliver Stone whose filmography consists of political themes.
Like Sully, the story begins with Snowden meeting some journalists of The Guardian, a British press in Hong Kong and has already obtained the confidential files. The movie also utilizes flashbacks as we alternate from Snowden’s early life from being discharged in the army, meeting his girlfriend Lindsay Mills, (played by Divergent’s Shailene Woodley) to his job at the FBI and NSA.
The flashbacks are better utilized as they alternate more in the past to know the character and his motivations, briefly return to the present now and then as the documents are discussed and in the process of being distributed all leading to the reveal of how he got the files undetected, making them become public to the world, and his escape out of Hong Kong to Russia where he resides today. Similar to Sully, Snowden raises questions on the topics it presents, in this case on the issue of surveillance and the way it was utilized. Surprisingly I didn’t notice the two-hour runtime as I was invested in every scene wondering what would happen next—despite knowing the outcome.
Despite the flaws, I still highly recommend both films. If you want a straightforward movie that will have you on the edge of your seat, with a touch of courtroom drama that is based on a true story, then Sully is the film for you. If you have the patience and can sit through a two hour and eighteen minute movie, that is insightful and for mature audiences, on the most controversial figure of the past year, then Snowden is for you.