Synopsis: Twenty years after the disappearance of her daughter, recovering alcoholic Darlene Hagen is preparing to host her family’s Christmas celebration when her estranged ex-brother-in-law arrives unannounced, bearing nostalgic gifts and a heavy secret. Stars: Anna Gunn, Linus Roache, Janeane Garofalo Director: Alison Star Locke Rated: NR Running Length: 91 minutes TMMM Score: (2/10) Review: For me, the biggest test of a mystery or high-tension thriller is how well it holds up once it starts to reveal its secrets. If it’s a corker, it can keep going on the built-up strength of the steel trap it set for its audience, refusing to let go. The weaker ones only show they were merely treading water from the beginning and quickly find they can’t keep their head above the waves they created, eventually drowning under the weight of a back half they can’t support.
Written and directed by Alison Star Locke, The Apology might be one of the most disappointing thrillers I’ve seen lately, primarily because there is so much promise in the premise. Here we have an isolated home on a snowy night before Christmas when evil tidings from the past come to haunt a woman (Anna Gunn, Sully) continuing to grieve her daughter’s disappearance two decades before. Her long-absent brother-in-law (Linus Roache, Non-Stop) unexpectedly turns up bearing wrapped gifts and offering a present for her, a present involving information she’s been waiting years to receive.
I’ll let you guess what he might have to share, but I bet you can discern that it sets into motion a battle of wills between the two that occupies much of the 91-minute run time. Unfortunately, while Locke was lucky to nab the underappreciated Gunn for the lead, she’s paired her with the less intriguing Roache for an overly talky two-hander that goes nowhere fast. Despite having a best friend played by an oddly muted Janeane Garofalo (The God Committee), a hop, skip, and a jump away, most of The Apology is just Gunn and Roache trading power positions. And it’s sadly weak.
Letting the cat out of the bag so early damages what little goodwill The Apology had going for it. Despite the ideal locale and major potential for something special, this is a present you’ll want to re-wrap and pass along to someone else.
Review: While I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to visit destinations near and far there’s one nagging thing that always hampers my trip…flying. I wouldn’t say I hate it, I just strongly dislike it and would prefer to road-trip my way across the U.S. and cruise my way over to European destinations. The irony is that I have a particular fondness for movies where airplanes are the central focus. So while I get a sheen of panicked sweat when the plane door closes and I’m locked in for the long haul, I get a nice little rush when I fire up a flick where the stewardess has to fly the plane or Wesley Snipes kicks terrorist butt.
I let you in on this little secret of mine because after seeing Sully, my biggest take-away is that I’d like to have a captain/crew just like the one from U.S. Airways Flight 155 on all my flights moving forward. Showing how captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, first officer Jeff Skiles, and the flight crew kept calm in the face of clear and present danger is one of the many things that director Clint Eastwood (Jersey Boys, American Sniper) and company gets right…even if the overall film winds up being more economy than first class.
Adapted by screenwriter Todd Komarnicki from “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” by Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, Eastwood’s film is a straightforward by-the-numbers affair and that’s likely where it lost a little spark for me. Sure, it would have been easy to overdramatize things and that wouldn’t have been right either…but instead of a smooth ascent Eastwood reaches his cruising altitude and goes on auto-pilot. (I think that’s the end of my flight-related metaphors/puns…maybe)
In a trim 95 minutes, Komarnicki and Eastwood take us through the events of that day in January 2009 when shortly after take-off Flight 155 hit a patch of birds that caused both of its engines to fail, leaving the plane gliding without power. Drawing on forty years of service, Sully (Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks) navigates the plane to a miraculous water landing on the Hudson River, saving everyone on board. Over the course of the film this incident is replayed several times to heart-pounding effect and largely without a booming score to tell you how to feel.
It’s the investigation after the landing as the NTSB/ insurance companies search for someone to blame that disappoints, waffling between holding Sully and Skiles (Aaron Eckhart, London Has Fallen) accountable and vindicating them as the heroes they certainly were/are. Hearings with the NTSB, headed by Mike O’Malley (Concussion), Jamey Sheridan (Spotlight), and Anna Gunn feel like acting exercises to see which of the three can glare, grimace, and judge all at the same time. For the record, O’Malley wins but only because Gunn never bothers to raise her voice (or her pulse) past a stage whisper.
Komarnicki puts in some awkward encounters Sully has with a public that wants to thank him but doesn’t know quite how to put that into words. So we have uncomfortable scenes where he’s kissed on the cheek by a make-up artist, hugged by a hotel manager, and lauded at a pub by local NYC bar huggers. Katie Couric pops up as herself recreating her exclusive sit down with Sully and the flight crew appearance on Letterman is shown with less than seamless integration between archive footage of the host and the Hollywood actors.
On the acting side of things, Hanks scores with his understated delivery and inherent dignity. Admittedly, it isn’t a big stretch for Hanks but in his own Hanks-ian way, he gives a powerful performance that’s more than a little reminiscent of 2013’s Captain Phillips. Hanks has an easy rapport with Eckhart…even when Eckhart’s Swedish Chef moustache threatens to take over the scene. Perhaps stymied by her scenes being entirely comprised of phone conversations, Laura Linney (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows) is particularly bad as Sully’s wife. Holding down the homefront while Sully deals with the NTSB, Linney’s character could be excised all together and nothing would be lost. In fact, Komarnicki’s barely-there rough sketches of Linney and a handful of other minor players/passengers is so poor you begin to fault the acting when it’s actually the writing that’s a failure.
Though some of the performances and directorial choices kept the film grounded (yeesh…why is Eastwood still composing those dirge-like scores, ahem, themes for his movies?), it’s Hanks that will make you want to check your luggage and hop on board. The recreations of the events of that day gave me that thrill I was looking forward to, I just wish everything else was as tight as those sections.
Synopsis: The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of his 155 passengers.
Release Date: September 9, 2016
Thoughts: Though he doesn’t wear a cape, Tom Hanks is the unquestionable superhero of moving movies. The amazing story that came to be known as The Miracle on the Hudson made its captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a media darling and Sullenberger’s recounting of his courage under fire made for good reading. Judging from this first look at Sully, there’s more to the story than most of the public would ever know as it shows the rippling backlash after Sully’s moment in the spotlight. While I feel it looks awfully similar to the 2012 fictionalized Flight and that J.K. Simmons would have been a more ideal Sully, Hanks (Cloud Atlas) and director Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) make this one something that might fly high this fall.