Oscar season is upon us, and as a cultural commentator, part of my job is to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you can sift past the blockbusters and ignore the monocultural behemoth that is Star Wars, it was a wonderful year for daring, hard-hitting dramas, and most of them have been receiving the attention they deserve.
But one film hasn’t: Sully. It’s obvious why that happened, in retrospect. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood, whose directorial efforts about the virtues of old white men have been getting diminishing returns for years now, and it stars Tom Hanks, who is no longer the box-office draw he once was. It just sounds boring to watch, a movie about another proud old man, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who did exactly one interesting thing in his life: successfully crash-land a jet airliner in the Hudson River without losing a single passenger. It’s a heroic act, yes, but it sure didn’t take very long, and we’ve definitely seen this story before. And how can you possibly fill two hours with just one heroic act?
Well, the answer is simple: by having a screenplay containing the finest writing of 2016, and maybe the entire decade. Unfortunately, it might be hard to catch just how good the writing is by watching the film. You have to read the screenplay. Luckily, as someone who lives in Los Angeles, I have access to all the screenplays I can find in garbage cans outside of liquor stores in North Hollywood, so I can share key excerpts from the script. This isn’t the whole film — that would be illegal — but these are the passages that elevate it to the level of an American masterpiece, and they speak for themselves. Warning: spoilers ahead.