Film Review: Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson is Clint Eastwood’s best film for years. Good performances and a well-crafted narrative make for enjoyable viewing.

Veteran pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger is in charge of a routine flight when something goes wrong. Whilst the media declares him a hero, behind the scenes he faces an investigation into this actions on the flight…

With Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, director Clint Eastwood tackles a very recent and familiar story. From the premise, it is difficult to see how the film will deliver something new and engaging. Nevertheless, screenwriter Todd Komarnicki has crafted a genuinely interesting narrative, focusing on what the audience already knows and what they don’t.

Rather astutely, Eastwood does not give the audience what they expect at the beginning. Instead, the narrative commences after the incident, telling the story through the device of the investigation and through flashbacks. This works well to tell the wider story, both of the protagonist and the investigation. Eastwood and Komarnicki wisely eschew the biopic trap, instead littering the film with some brief pivotal moments in the career of the pilot.

Even though most viewers will know exactly what happened in New York, Eastwood still manages to generate a good deal of tension. The reenactment of the incident appears in the middle of proceedings. By this point, the protagonist is sufficiently developed. Furthermore, the action focuses on the very immediate aftermath; an aspect given less coverage than the act itself. Eastwood directs these sequences deftly, and generates sufficient tension in the later hearing scene. There is an element of sentimentality, but this does not override other aspects. Tom Hanks is reliable as ever, delivering a convincing performance as Sully. Aaron Eckhart provides good support.

Sully: Miracle on the Hudson is well-paced, and avoids following other recent Eastwood films in being overlong. With a strong performance by Hanks, the director delivers a solid feel-good film.

Film Review: Bleed For This


Bleed For This is a decently entertaining boxing film. It is perfectly watchable, but by no means a classic of the genre.

World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza is known for never giving up. When an accident threatens not only his career, but his life, it looks as if his boxing days are over. Vinny, however, wishes to prove the naysayers wrong…

Based on the true story of boxer Vinny Pazienza, Bleed For This follows the hallmarks of the boxing film. By the time the montage sequence rolls around in the first third, viewers will recognise the conventions. However, the accident puts a spin on things, and the film becomes more of a triumph over adversary.

Director and co-writer Ben Younger has created the archetypal boxing movie with Bleed For This. It follows a simple narrative to Rocky et al, following an underdog as he hopes to beat the odds. Younger’s film can be distinguished from others in the genre by the fact that it is based on real events. Besides this, however, there is little to make the film stand out.

The film blends drama and comedy, amongst the sports narrative. The film is very Hollywood in its style. Younger adds some nice touches, like the home video-style footage. The fight sequences are well executed; editing in the scenes add to the tension. Bleed For This focuses on Vinny and his relationship with those close to him. It is a male-heavy film; females are strictly supportive or viewed through a voyeuristic gaze. The film feels macho, a throwback to the era it is set in, perhaps. Miles Teller offers a strong performance as Vinny. Ciarán Hinds is decent as his father, whilst Aaron Eckhart is almost recognisable as coach Kevin.

Bleed For This is enjoyable and well executed. Compared to the recent Creed, however, it does not put its head above the parapet.

Bleed For This is being screened at BFI London Film Festival in October 2016.

Stuff To Look At

A feast of trailers and images. A feast for the eyes, I say. Whether it is horror, Disney animation, or crime thriller, there is something here for everyone…

Monsters University

I want to go to Monsters University! Human universities are so boring in comparison. A prequel to Monsters Inc., Monsters University tells the story of how Sully and Mike met as students. The film will be released in UK cinemas on 12th July 2013.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and PowerfulLook at this monkey! Surely he is reason alone for seeing Oz The Great and Powerful? Given that the film is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, it seems unlikely that hot slice Toto will appear. Not to fear, we have Finley in his little uniform to beguile us. Oz The Great and Powerful is released on 8th March 2013.

Identity Thief

Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy star in Identify Thief. When Sandy tracks down Diana, the woman who has stolen his identity, hijinks ensue when he tries to bring her to justice. Identity Thief is out in UK cinemas on 22nd March 2013.

Olympus Has Fallen

Well this all looks rather tense. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua brings together Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett in action thriller Olympus Has Fallen. The film hits UK screens on 19th April 2013.


A TV spot for Mama was on the other night when a friend (who shall remain nameless) could not bear to watch it. Guillermo del Toro is the executive producer of supernatural horror Mama, which stars Jessica Chastain. Mama is released on 22nd February 2013.

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh reunites with Jude Law and Channing Tatum for thriller Side Effects. Also staring Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the film is about a depressed patient who is prescribed the latest medication by her psychiatrist. Side Effects is out on 8th March 2013.

The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger

Here be the latest poster for The Lone Ranger. I am not quite sure why Johnny Depp has a bird on his head; I am hoping that this will be explained in the film. The Lone Ranger will hit UK cinemas on 9th August 2013.

Evil Dead

When I first saw a trailer for Evil Dead, initially I didn’t realise it was a remake of the 1981 film. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell act as producers for this new version, so at least it gets their seal of approval. The trailer above is rather graphic, so brace yourself if you are squeamish. Evil Dead is released on 19th April 2013.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Jack the Giant Slayer

This is the latest poster for Warner Brothers’ Jack the Giant Slayer. Jack and the Beanstalk is not one of those fairy tales that has had a plethora of film adaptations, so it will be interesting to see what is done with it. Released in 3D, Jack the Giant Slayer hits UK screens on 22nd March 2013.

Dark Skies

Another horror! When the Sandman is mentioned, it is unlikely that things are going to go well. Dark Skies is giving me shades of The Birds. However, the trailer indicates more supernatural activity than this. Dark Skies is released in the UK on 5th April 2013.

The Paperboy

Having already been released in America, a certain scene in The Paperboy has been discussed a lot. I won’t spoil it, for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about. Nicole Kidman heads a stellar cast in thriller The Paperboy. The film hits UK screens on 15th March 2013.

The Heat

Sandra Bullock plays a FBI agent and Melissa McCarthy a Boston cop. This old couple comedy comes from Paul Feig, director of Bridesmaids. The Heat is released in UK cinemas on 5th April 2013.

Film Review: The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary boasts some great performances, wonderful locations and fabulous costuming. Unfortunately, the film also suffers from lacklustre direction, making it really rather dull.

American writer Paul Kemp takes a job at a newspaper in Puerto Rico in 1960. His colleagues are jaded, with some more interested in consuming rum above anything else. Paul begins to see the gulf between the local way of life and the wealthy foreigners who frequent the paradise island…

Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, The Rum Diary attempts to capture the mood of a certain era and a certain group of individuals. It is partially successful; the film generates an exoticness that will be unfamiliar to many. However, the film lacks a sense of authenticity. The scenes in the film that are meant to be absurd or somewhat wild never really pull the audience in. Perhaps the problem is that The Rum Diary loses its viewers before it gets to this point.

Bruce Robinson’s direction is stilted. The more active sequences do not grab the attention in the way they are supposed to. There is a distinct lack of energy to the whole film. In one sense, the film takes a laid-back style, with the plot slowly being revealed. Nevertheless, without strong direction or purpose, the film quickly becomes dull, and never really recovers.

The narrative can be reduced to a fairly simple good guys versus bad guys structure, with the audience identifying with Kemp’s point of view as the newcomer. Characters are depicted in polemical terms, with the almost caricature wealthy investors and the sidelined locals who get no viewpoint of their own. There is nothing particularly illuminating about the narrative, nor anything that entertaining.

Johnny Depp is good for the most part as Paul Kemp. In a few of the scenes, his mannerisms are over the top, which appear at odds with the character. Aaron Eckhart is solid as Sanderson, while Giovanni Ribisi is excellent as the eccentric Moberg. Amber Heard is appropriately cast as Chenault, a role requiring little else but looking pretty.

Colleen Atwood’s costuming is great, particularly Chenault’s wardrobe. Production values in The Rum Diary are good, though not much about the film stands out, visually-speaking. The film’s very fatal flaw is that it is boring; viewers are unlikely to recommend The Rum Diary to others.

Film Review: Battle: Los Angeles

As an two-hour long advertisement for the US marines, Battle: Los Angeles is excellent. As a feature film, not so much.

Veteran marine Michael Nantz is ready to retire after a long and distinguished career. The day after he makes his intentions clear, major cities around the world come under attack from an unknown entity. Squad sergeant Nantz and his team must battle against the alien attackers to save Los Angeles…

Jonathan Liebesman’s Battle: Los Angeles features all of the standard conventions of an apocalyptic/alien attack movie. There is little innovation in any aspect of the film. The pacing is uneven; there are several false endings and the film lasts longer than it should. Although the movie centres on an alien attack, little is revealed about the extraterrestrials. Instead, Battle: Los Angeles concentrates on the near relentless action.

Writer Chris Bertolini injects his script with all the usual clichés. At its worse, the film is an embarrassment of cringe-worthy dialogue. Nantz’s speeches to his men are riddled with the overblown sentiment of a Michael Bay film. Likewise, while Bertolini strives for heartfelt with the confabulating of Hector’s father Joe, the result is more nauseating than anything else.

The characters in Battle: Los Angles fulfill the usual archetypes for the style of film. Nantz is at first the reluctant hero, coming into his stride as the film progresses. He is the all-American hero; putting the lives of his team before his own, and saving the civilians at any cost. Within his team, none of the characters particularly stand out. Lockett is the familiar good guy with a chip on his shoulder, while Santos is the token female.

Special effects are pretty decent, although there is minimal detailed footage of the alien invaders. The sound is bombastic; with all the explosions, gunfire and helicopter sounds, there is barely a moment’s peace in Battle: Los Angeles. Camera work combines the rough, hand-held style of Cloverfield with the veneer of a Roland Emmerich movie.

Aaron Eckhart is a talented actor, so it is a mystery as to why he plumped for this script. Elsewhere, performances are fine overall; it is the dialogue rather than the delivery that is the problem. Michelle Rodriguez plays her usual tough girl role, while Ne-Yo’s foray into movies is not much of a test.

The stock heroics, familiar perilous situations, and the little children to rescue are all present in the film. The only thing missing is the dog. Audiences may be better off re-watching Independence Day or any of its ilk as Battle: Los Angeles offers nothing new.

Film Review: Rabbit Hole

Rabbit Hole is a thought-provoking drama that sensitively deals with the subject of grief. It is a well-executed film, accomplished but not astounding.

Becca and Howie struggle to cope with the death of their young son, Danny. Both have different ways of dealing with his death, an issue that causes them to clash. While Howie holds on to his memories, Becca looks for something different…

David Lindsay-Abaire also wrote the screenplay for Rabbit Hole, based on his play. The writing is excellent, dealing thoughtfully with the characters and themes. Rabbit Hole feels like a very authentic portrait of the different ways people deal with grief. These approaches are dealt with in a non-judgemental manner, with Lindsay-Abaire refusing to advocate one way of coping over another. The characters are three-dimensional and utterly believable, which serves to draw the audience in to their story.

Rabbit Hole moves slowly, an aspect which will not appeal to all cinemagoers. Shifts in the narrative are subtle rather than pronounced. The glacial pace, however, is necessary in order for an accurate representation of events. Rabbit Hole is a film about a couple coping with the loss of their son, not a film about the death of a child and the immediate aftermath. The drip exposition of the events of Danny’s death serves well to reaffirm the emphasis on dealing with grief rather than the incident itself.

Camera work is often fluid in Rabbit Hole, nicely contrasting with the prolonged close-up shots of Becca and Howie. Director John Cameron Mitchell allows the scene to breath at these points, allowing the actors to convey their heartache. The art direction works well to create an autumnal look to the film. Rabbit Hole has a rustic quality, aided by the suburban setting and Becca’s propensity for baking. The score is used sparingly; critical moments are often unaccompanied by music. The silence accentuates the sense of reality.

As Becca, Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances in recent years. She captures the sadness of the character, as well as her uneasy temperament. It is Aaron Eckhart, nonetheless, who really impresses as Howie. Eckhart is entirely convincing as the grieving father, exhibiting a wide range of emotions. Dianne Wiest is also great as Becca’s mother; a character carrying her own burden as well as trying to help her family.

Rabbit Hole is a polished film that deals honestly with a difficult theme. It is a drama that may leave viewers pensive; Rabbit Hole’s effect is subtle rather than spellbinding.