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'Sully' demonstrates that nice guys don't necessarily finish last

Posted September 19

Clint Eastwood, left, gives direction to Tom Hanks on the set of "Sully." The film is playing in local theaters. (Deseret Photo)

By now you have no doubt come across numerous stories about “Sully,” Clint Eastwood’s new movie that stars Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger — the pilot who, with First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), safely guided a passenger airliner to an emergency water landing on the Hudson River in January 2009.

This film about the Miracle on the Hudson is getting rave reviews and was a box-office hit after opening last weekend … not a hit on the “Captain America” or “Jungle Book” scale, of course, but very successful nonetheless.

And, naturally, there’s Oscar talk since “Sully” is really the first salvo by a major studio in the Academy Award sprint that begins each September. Whether it will still be included in that conversation come January remains to be seen. But it should be.

It’s also worth noting that “Sully” is an adult movie about good people doing good things, without any hidden agendas, dark secrets, lies or deceit.

That the film did well at the box office should send a signal to Hollywood that there’s an audience out there for heroes who don’t wear masks, capes or jet packs, who don’t have superpowers, who aren’t seeking revenge, and who care deeply about such real-life values as honor, service, humility, love and the instinct to do good.

“Sully” is about people, real people — not just Sullenberger but most everyone in the film — doing the right thing, helping one another and reacting in a positive way when confronted by unprecedented circumstances.

Really, when’s the last time you saw a 21st-century movie that was about good people being good?

The conflict in “Sully” stems from the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the incident, which initially shifts the blame from the extraordinary circumstances of a massive bird strike to pilot error because the plane was guided to the Hudson River instead of heading to a local airport. Did both engines really stop functioning or did he just miscalculate when one was actually still idling?

But in the end, even the board members aren’t villains. They’re just doing their jobs, trying to uncover the truth, and therein lies the mystery and the source of Sullenberger’s angst. Well, that and the enormous amount of unwanted public attention foisted on him. (If there are villains here, they may be members of the media.)

Actually, that’s another thing. With so many films and television programs about people who are dying to become famous or just get on TV or the internet, it’s refreshing to see a movie about someone who doesn’t want any of that.

I loved “Sully,” and it’s nice to have a movie playing in theaters that I can recommend without hesitation — because I’m asked to do that almost daily and there hasn’t been one this good in quite a while.

And it’s worth noting that the PG-13 rating in this instance is fair, due to the images of crashing planes and the terror exhibited by those involved in the forced landing.

But it’s also worth noting that somewhere along the way, someone in power got nervous and must have felt that the film might come away with — horrors! — a PG rating instead of a PG-13.

So the F-word was added to the soundtrack, as if there’s some law in place that requires every PG-13 movie to have a character speak it at least once.

When that word arrives, it’s spoken off-handedly by a character walking away from the camera, and he’s already quite a ways off. Which leads me to suspect it was looped into the soundtrack late, perhaps as an afterthought.

It’s purely gratuitous, it’s spoken during a moment that goes by so quickly you might miss it and there’s absolutely no dramatic reason for its existence in this context.

In fact, I wonder if it’s in the script or if some anointed marketing genius got together with the director and warned, “So, Clint, we might want to throw an F-bomb in there, just once, y’know? To be sure we get that PG-13? Whadayathink?”

If so, shame on them.

It doesn’t ruin the experience by any means, but it does, um, sully it a bit.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at hicks@deseretnews.com.

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