Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

Movie review: ‘The 15:17 to Paris’ deserves full salute

“The 15:17 to Paris” (PG-13)

If you go to director Clint Eastwood’s compelling new true-life drama “The 15:17 to Paris” to focus on the acting, you’re missing the point. Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler are not professional actors,  they’re re-enactors of the biggest story of their lives.  They were brought aboard the film by Eastwood to give its audience the only true perspective of what went into the trio of lifelong friends’ daring move to take down an ISIS terrorist armed with rifles and 300 rounds of ammunition to kill as many innocent people as possible on a passenger train bound for Paris in August 2015. Even if Eastwood would have cast the best actors in the business to play Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler, “The 15:17 to Paris” wouldn’t have had nearly as much impact.

The focal point of “The 15:17 to Paris,” naturally, is how the trio thwarted the terrorist attack, as Stone selflessly charged toward the gunman with a weapon pointed at him, a move that would have certainly been the Air Force member’s last if not for the fact that the terrorist’s weapon malfunctioned. As Stone desperately tried to subdue the terrorist, Army National Guard Specialist Skarlatos and Sadler jumped in and attempted to beat the would-be killer into submission until Stone choked him out. Perhaps even more amazing, Stone, who was slashed and nearly had his left thumb cut off by the terrorist, ignored his wounds as he attended to a shooting victim with blood gushing from his neck.

The 1517 to Paris

Unfolding in the same natural way Eastwood’s harrowing true-life tale “Sully” did in 2016, Eastwood gives context to “The 15:17 to Paris,” first by examining how the three friends came to be as middle schoolers in Sacramento, California. Separated by different circumstance soon thereafter, their friendship endured, and the action picks up again as Stone joins the Air Force, Skarlatos enlists in the Army, and Sadler — never showing any interest in the military –sits it out but supports his best friends.

While “The 15:17 to Paris” is far from Eastwood’s best directorial effort, the film still shows how phenomenal of a filmmaker he truly is. Yes, the scene where the trio takes down the ISIS terrorist is masterfully done, but where Eastwood truly excels is finding a profound meaning in the trio’s back story. Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler were all bullied and were outcasts, and while they didn’t fit in at their school, they still found each other. If not for that fortuitous friendship and establishment of a solid foundation that guided them throughout their turbulent young lives, their destiny to save as many of 500 people on August 21, 2015, simply never would have been realized. For that reason alone, all those involved in “The 15:17 to Paris” deserves our full salute.

Lammometer: 8 (out of 10)

Tim Lammers reviews movies weekly for The KQ92 Morning Show,” “KARE 11 News at 11” (NBC), “The Tom Barnard Podcast” and “The BS Show” with Bob Sansevere.

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Movie review: Eastwood, Hanks soar with ‘Sully’

Warner Bros.

“Sully” (PG-13) 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Clint Eastwood masterfully tells the story of the “Miracle on the Hudson” and it’s surprising aftermath in “Sully,” a compelling drama  that chronicles the events surrounding Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s daring and unprecedented landing of an A320 airbus on the Hudson River in New York City on Jan. 15, 2009.

“Sully,” naturally, documents in detail the events of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on that fateful day in 2009, when shortly after takeoff Sully (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) a bird strike renders both engines in their jet useless. With no engine thrust to commandeer the plane back to its point of origin at LaGuardia Airport or make an emergency landing at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, Sully makes the quick determination that landing on the Hudson River is the best if not only option.

People, of course, got to know Sully through his many appearances in the media following the miracle landing, which saved all 155 passengers and crew on board. Lost in whirlwind of press, however,  was the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the incident that threatened to

end the careers of Sully and his first officer on the flight.

Interview: Aaron Eckhart talks “Sully”

Though hailed as heroes by the general public, the NTSB’s reaction is quite different, as its  computer analyses and flight simulations suggested that Sully and Skiles could flown the plane back at La Guardia Airport or at the very least, could have landed at Teterboro. Even more damning, the NTSB claimed that at least part of the left engine on the plane was functional and would given the A320 with enough thrust to land at either airport.

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Hanks, whose career has been defined by good guy roles, is perfectly suited to play the hero in “Sully,” as he nails the quite demeanor and humility of the famed pilot who maintains a respect for the NTSB despite its intense scrutiny of the events surround the splash landing.


Listen to Tim’s review of “Sully” with Tom Barnard, Michele Tafoya and the KQ92 Morning Show crew at 13:30 in.

Eckhart is also terrific as Skiles, giving a face and voice to the pilot who, despite being relegated to the background as Sully captured most of the media’s attention, played a pivotal role in the landing of the plane on the Hudson. Laura Linney also gives a memorable performance in a supporting role as Sully’s wife and voice of reason as the pilot begins to question his actions in the face of adversity.

Eastwood, however, is the true star of “Sully.” He recreates the crippled Flight 1549 with gripping suspense (amazing, considering we all know the outcome), and his subtle direction defines the inspirational tone of the film, which ultimately gives it its emotional lift. Also chronicling the work of the first responders (many people from the real event recreated their roles for the film), “Sully” displays the work of everyday people at their finest. Be sure to stick around for the end credits of the film, as Eastwood includes emotional footage that punctuates the 90 minutes that precedes it.

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Interview: Aaron Eckhart says he’s honored to co-pilot ‘Sully’

Warner Bros.Even though he’s trained to fly himself, acclaimed actor Aaron Eckhart said he developed an even greater respect for pilots after co-navigating the true-life drama “Sully.”

The film, which opens in theaters and on IMAX theaters nationwide on Friday, chronicles Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s and First Officer Jeff Skiles’ “Miracle on the Hudson” water landing, as well as the jarring aftermath as the pilots’ decision-making during the crisis comes into question.

The thing Eckhart was most impressed with after meeting and consulting with Sullenberger and Skiles — whom he plays in the film — is that despite the miraculous landing, the men look on the 2009 events that ended in the Hudson River in New York City as a responsibility of the job and not an act of heroism.

“Sully and Jeff said, ‘Hey, that’s what we do for our job. We were trained and have 20,000 hours in the air. This is why we have checklists and procedures,” Eckhart said in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. “They just think of it as part of their job and don’t look at themselves as heroes. Sully knew because of his work that a plane at this weight is going to glide this far at this air speed and he was looking out for that.”

Having spent time in the cockpit over the years,

Eckhart said the pilots’ mindset resonated with him while making the film.

“I pilot a little bit myself, and I know that I need to be looking for alternate routes, highways or waterways in case I have a problem in the air. It’s second nature to these guys,” Eckhart, 48, said. “All the pilots I’ve talked to after making this movie, they all think it’s part of the procedure of being a pilot. It’s their job and they all could have done it.”

Directed by legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood, “Sully” naturally presents the intense moments in the cockpit and cabin of United Airlines Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009, and the blistering scrutiny Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and Skiles (Eckhart) faced in front of the National Transportation Safety Board during the investigation into what went wrong with the plane.

From the vantage point of Sullenberger and Skiles, a bird strike took out both engines of the A320 aircraft they were piloting upon takeoff and their only option was a forced water landing on the Hudson River.

But to the NTSB, computer analyses and flight simulations suggested that they could flown the plane back to the point of departure at La Guardia Airport in New York City, or at the very least, could have landed at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Further complicating matters, the NTSB claimed during the investigation that at least part of the left engine on the plane was functional, which ultimately would provided the plane with enough thrust to land at either airport.

In addition to the title character, “Sully” shines a light on Skiles and several of the first responders that saved all 155 passengers and crew during the fateful, frigid day on the Hudson in 2009. The interesting thing is, most people associate the “Miracle on the Hudson” with Sullenberger, while the efforts of Skiles — who commandeered the takeoff of Flight 1549 — have largely been left in the background. As little known as Skiles is in comparison to Sullenberger, he is, after all, the person who knows the most about what happened on the flight, as the other pilot in the cockpit.

“Jeff and I talked about this, and he said he realized that there has to be a face to the story — that the media is going to pick out a hero and Sully was that guy,” Eckhart said. “Sully was the captain of the flight and Jeff came to terms with that and receded into the background. They were thrust into the spotlight so aggressively that one had to take that lead role. I don’t know what Jeff’s real feelings are about it, but he and Sully are still good friends today.”

No matter who took the lead, there’s no question, as audiences will discover, that Sullenberger and Skiles were both in the hot seat during the NTSB investigation and eventual hearing by the agency, which illustrated the viability of the alternate scenarios to landing in the Hudson.

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And while the treatment of the pilots will appear harsh to audience members — in stark contrast to the media adulation they received in the days and months after the landing — Eckhart said it’s the NTSB’s job to scrutinize, and the pilots, as well as he and Hanks, accept and respect the process as an absolute necessity.

“There was a lot on the line with what they did. You’re talking about a water landing, which in itself is an improbability, and then you’re talking about saving everybody’s lives,” Eckhart observed. “In the hearing, you find out that they could lose their commercial licenses, lose their pensions and lose their reputations. Everybody that has seen the film so far has been maddened by this NTSB hearing, but that’s what it’s there for. It’s the spine of the movie. It’s the drama. People think they know what they’re going to go see, but I think they are going to be pleasantly surprised that they’re going to see so much more.”

In the end, Eckhart added, “One hundred percent, Sully did not see the NTSB as adversarial. He said they’re doing their job. They’re a necessary part of keeping us safe.”

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Movie reviews: ‘American Sniper,’ ‘The Wedding Ringer,’ ‘Blackhat’

 

Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in 'American Sniper' (Waner Bros)

“American Sniper” 4 stars (out of four)

Clint Eastwood brilliantly directs the best film of 2014 with “American Sniper,” a compelling big-screen adaptation of the autobiography of late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. An emotionally charged and brutally honest portrayal of the most prolific sniper in American military history, the film is honorable in that it’s not necessarily about heroics, but a heartbreaking, warts-and-all portrait of Kyle during his four tours of duty in Iraq, and the effects the war has on his loved ones at home.

A God-fearing military man who loves his country, Kyle, played with layered subtlety by Cooper, is taciturn, and appears to take no great joy in what he does. Forgoing any sort of “oorah” chants, his duty as a sniper behind the long barrel of an M40 rifle is one that he’s humbled by. If he does his job, his fellow soldiers live. If he doesn’t, they die.

Interview: Sienna Miller talks ‘American Sniper’

While “American Sniper” features perhaps the most authentic Iraq War scenes ever filmed, Cooper hauntingly brings the war home in his head, dealing with the psychological torment of a man operating on an extremely high, adrenaline fueled level, who is forced in the course of a day-trip home to downshift to the seemingly mundane life he leads at home in America.

It’s here where “American Sniper” becomes a well-rounded story, where Chris’s wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), tries to tap into the conflicted mind of her husband who can’t seem to embrace his duties as a family man because he’s too preoccupied with how many lives of soldiers he could be saving if he were back on the battlefield. He only finds his peace in other soldiers worth saving – the men and women physically and psychologically wounded in VA hospitals on the home front – a path that ultimately leads to his untimely death.

Whether it’s recreating the chaos of the battlefield or the monotony of Kyle sitting at home in front of a blank TV screen, Eastwood is in complete command of “American Sniper.” The film, naturally, is at its most poignant at its conclusion, where the director showcases real-life photos and videos of Chris and Taya Kyle, and the ultimate salute he received by his country after his death. Ultimately, Eastwood and Cooper humanize the man the enemies feared, and rightfully so, called “The Legend.”

Reviewed in brief:

“The Wedding Ringer” (R) 3 stars (out of four)

Kevin Hart and Josh Gad are hilarious in “The Wedding Ringer,” a predictable yet cleverly conceived comedy that is funny throughout despite some very disgusting, over-the-top gross-out moments.

Gad stars as Doug Harris, a loveable loser who realizes two weeks before his wedding to his high maintenance fiancée, Gretchen (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), that he has no friends: a big problem, considering he needs to come up with a best man and six groomsmen for the big day. Lucky for Doug, there’s a service for such quandaries, run by the fast-talking, silky smooth hustler Jimmy Callahan (Hart), who for $50,000, assembles a rag-tag bunch of “friends” for his client – a group, that along with Doug, makes him realize that he just may be lonesome himself.

Hart and Gad provide a perfect comedic one-two punch in “The Wedding Ringer,” and thanks to unlikely comedic turns by Ken Howard as Doug’s future father-in-law and the always adorable Cloris Leachman as Gretchen’s grandma, it thankfully avoids becoming a one-joke movie. It’s even charming if not a tiny bit poignant at times, bringing a strange sense of balance to the movie, considering it’s about as politically incorrect as a comedy gets.

“Blackhat” (R) 1 1/2 stars (out of four)

What should be a timely film about cybercrime is mostly just a cy-bore.

“Blackhat,” without a doubt, has all the right elements to construct a top-notch thriller, from director Michael Mann to “Thor” star Chris Hemsworth and a solid supporting casting including “The Help” Oscar nominee Viola Davis, but in the end, simply fails to connect with its audience. It starts out with promise and intrigue with a cyber-attack on a Chinese nuclear plant and the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago, but quickly takes a sharp dive into a lumbering, aimless chase film where the feds spring a dangerous, imprisoned hacker (Hemsworth) to help ferret out the bad guy.

Mann, the “Miami Vice” TV director who went on to helm such modern classics as “Heat” and “The Insider,” never seems to find the right pacing and sense of tension with “Blackhat.” Try as he might to carry the film, Hemsworth, speaking with an American wiseguy accent, goes through the action movie motions on his way to the Mann-like one-on-one confrontation with the villain – an underwhelming development in that is played by the largely-unknown Yorick van Wageningen. So much for another Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro “Heat”-like confrontation that made the crime thriller such a nail-biter.

Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.