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Movie Reviews: Sully and Hell Or High Water

Sully

Cary, NC – Director Clint Eastwood guides Tom Hanks in the true story Sully, about the acclaimed pilot Sully Sullenberger who pulled off “The Miracle on the Hudson,” saving over 150 passengers and crew in the process. Eastwood deftly pulls off this engrossing drama with huge help from Hanks, who delivers yet another fantastic performance.

Eastwood Explores Heroism

The bulk of Sully focuses on the aftermath of the infamous crash and the investigation that followed. It’s a unique take, one that puts the title character in a difficult position. Did he do the right thing? Could he have made it to the airport? It gives Eastwood a chance to examine what exactly heroism means, at least to him.

Sully also features what could be considered Eastwood’s first true action sequence with the depiction of the crash itself. Told in broken segments and perspectives throughout the film, the sequence is frighteningly realistic, at least as much as I can imagine having never experienced something like that. It’s a truly impressive feat for the director.

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Hanks Delivers Again

Of course, you can’t talk about Sully without talking about Tom Hanks. The actor has proven time and again that he is one of our greatest performers. His emotional breakdown at the end of Captain Phillips alone is an all-timer. Here he gives a very understated performance. His Sully is a man of few words, letting his eyes and face say it all. I think it also helps that as an audience we just like Hanks. We trust him. I believe Eastwood knows that, and uses it to his advantage. It’s hard to see him second guess himself, especially since he saved every life onboard. Hanks carries the film like an old pro and I’m forever curious to see what he has up his sleeve as an actor.

Not Enough Time With Supporting Players

One of the few disappointments of Sully is the waste of its supporting cast: Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight), Laura Linney (The Truman Show, Mystic River) and Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad). They all do a solid job, it’s just that they don’t have much to do. The film clocks in at a tight 96 minutes so it makes sense that the focus stays on Hanks, but I feel like just a little bit more time spent with these characters could have added a nice little something to the film. It’s a certainly a minor complaint, but a complaint nonetheless.

Well Worth Seeing

Overall though, Sully is another win for Eastwood and especially star Tom Hanks. It’s too early to tell if this will be an awards player yet, but I’m never surprised if Hanks is in the running because he always deserves it. Well worth seeing in theaters.

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Hell or High Water

Cary, NC – In a deceptively simple story about two bank robbers and the police trying to catch them, Hell or High Water creates one of the most engaging crime stories of the year and gets in another great performance from Jeff Bridges late in his career.

Familiar But Exciting Story

Hell or High Water starts in a way any movie fan can recognize and appreciate. Two brothers, played by Chris Pine (Star Trek) and Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma) rob a small-town bank in dusty West Texas and their case gets taken up by a Texas Ranger, played by Jeff Bridges (Big LebowskiTrue Grit), who’s taking this one last assignment before retirement.

This gives the audience two captivating stories to follow as the movie progresses. Pine and Foster’s robberies are exciting and messy and leave us wondering what their end game is while Bridges uses old-school wit and wisdom to try and track them down. And in between the main plot points, we learn about these characters’ personalities and what makes them tick with nice, nuanced scenes of terrific dialogue.

What takes Hell or High Water above the usual cat-and-mouse, cops-and-robbers story is the story of Pine and Foster’s robberies. They aren’t only after money…well actually they are but it’s why they need the money and the question of which of them is really in control of the operation that adds an extra layer of intrigue and investment to the story.

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Top to Bottom Great Performances

With a mix of excellent dialogue from screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote the similarly-toned Sicario from 2015, and careful management from director David Mackenzie, all of the performances in Hell or High Water pop. Most notable from the cast is Jeff Bridges who is at a point in his career where he can, and has, phone-in his performance and still be well liked. But here, Bridges is incredible, adopting a perfect accent, nailing his investigative points and has a heart-wrenching moment right after the film’s action climax.

No surprise, the next-best performances come from the other leads, Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Foster especially sinks into the role, thanks in part to his lower profile as an actor, but also a genuine swell of energy as the more off-kilter of the two brothers. Pine is more than solid and it is good to see him show some range outside of his recent blockbuster successes. Special commendations also go to Gil Birmingham who plays Bridges’ partner, allowing the two characters to have great rapport and banter.

But Hell or High Water is able to carve out a rich world because appropriate time is given to smaller actors throughout the film. Everyone gets to have a little moment, whether it’s an old man selling coins early in the movie or a flirty waitress at a diner or a very un-flirty waitress at a steakhouse. It helps Hell or High Water feel less like a movie and more like real life.

World of the Movie

As well written as the characters in Hell or High Water are, the most important character the movie has is the setting. That sounds like a cliché but the film devotes much of its time to showing what life in West Texas is like. Not only is it shot beautifully to show the good and the bad of the landscape but everything hints at the conditions of the area.

Without spoiling much of the movie, this is the underlying driver of the brothers’ actions robbing banks and it is handled subtly. Some audience members may complain not enough information is given about their motivations, but in doing so, the film does not beat you over the head with its social and economic messages. It offers a snapshot of a region the writer and director both seem to be passionate about.

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Must-See This Year

If you can see it, Hell or High Water is a definite top pick for movies in 2016. The story may seem too simple at first but it is carried by dynamite performances, realistic writing and some clever twists in the plot down the road. And it’s always fun to see Jeff Bridges play a cowboy.


Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Sully/Hell or High Water).

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