Sully – Movie Review

I went to see Sully Saturday, and it was very good.

The most obvious comparison is the movie from a couple years ago, “Flight.” Both movies depict the NTSB setting their sights on crucifying pilots, even when they made the right decisions and saved people. Apparently, especially in Sully, the NTSB agents were made more into villains, for the sake of drama, and the real life investigators were considerably more objective and professional.

The big difference though is the captain in “Flight” was drunk and on cocaine in the cockpit, while Captain Sullenberger was much more like the pilots I know – diligent in being sure his faculties were not compromised while he had lives depending on him.

Other things I liked – the flight attendants were played by women who looked like actual flight attendants, not models. They looked like they might be in their forties, and not Charlize Theron fourties. Actual real people.

I liked how, when he’s being lauded as a hero, Sully acknowledges the importance of the role the rest of the crew played, including the flight attendants, who he listed by name in that scene.

When you’re doing a movie that’s trying to stay true to the original events, I imagine it can be hard to squeak in more female characters, and so very often. Obviously it wouldn’t seem right to gender swap the pilots or flight attendants, who all fit the stereotypes of pilot = male, flight attendant = female. I’m willing to bet there was likely no women at the front of the room in the NTSB hearing through, but they stuck one in anyway. Those NTSB agents are apparently made up – that’s where the movie takes the most dramatic license to up the suspense, and rather than vilify real people, the understandably made up a villain.

And then there’s the background characters that that people don’t notice are usually exclusively male. But I noticed effort put in there too. It’s probably not accurate to have had a female pilot among the simulator test crews, and considering the number of female pilots working at that level, it’s probably not even likely that they would have been able to find a female pilot available to participate, but they squeaked in female pilots in not just one of those simulator test crews, but one on each of the two – one is the first officer in the pair, and the other is the captain. That’s making an effort.

On the other hand, the cast was pretty white – I don’t know if there was so much as a black or other POC passenger on the plane.

Good movie, not horrifically long, and I enjoyed it.

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Movie Review: Flight

Denzel Washington plays a commercial airline pilot with a drinking problem, who, faced with a broken plane tries a crazy desperate move to stabilize it, saving the lives of most of his passengers. But then they find out he was intoxicated at the time, and the powers that be are going to try and pin the blame for the crash on him, rather than the failure of the plane due to lax maintenance that actually caused the crash.

It was a great movie, and Denzel Washington plays a very convincing drunk, speaking from the perspective of someone who’s lived with one.

What I found interesting though, was mostly because I’ve been working my way through Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction, by Donald Maass. I just finished a chapter on emotional arcs, and of course I was watching the structure of the story told in the movie in terms of what I’d learned form the book. It followed those techniques very well, and escalated the moral conflict in the main character right to where he hit rock bottom. It was one of those plots where the main character  could have chosen any moment to end the story, and turn his life around, and the story would have ended there, but he didn’t – he continued making bad choices until he reached that low point where there was no return.

And the writers could have written a story where he wasn’t presented with those choices where he made the wrong decision, but the writers knew what they were doing, and paced out crises, and the main character was forced over and over to choose to lie to protect himself, presenting characters who are facilitating the lies, encouraging him. And to cope, he falls deeper and deeper into the alcoholism that got him into the mess in the first place.

Anyway, good movie – well structured, well acted.