Tag Archives: Tom Hanks

The Post

Movie:  The Post

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   By 1968 the United States was heavily committed to keeping a large military force in Vietnam to prop up the corrupt South Vietnamese government, and ostensibly to defeat the North Vietnamese insurgents.  Despite optimistic reports to the press of American progress towards victory, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) commissioned a detailed study by the Rand Corp. to assess the true picture of the war in Vietnam.  One of the people working on the document was a former marine officer and special assistant in the Defense Department Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys), who had spent two years in Vietnam and was very familiar with how the war was proceeding.  In short, Ellsberg advised his bosses that the war was at best a stalemate.

By 1971 Ellsberg has had an epiphany;  his conscience dictated that he needed to take action to bring the war to a close, or at least let the public know the real truth of American involvement in Vietnam.  With access to the Top Secret 7000 page document that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg made copies.  Going underground and staying on the lam to avoid arrest, Ellsberg managed to get a portion of the Pentagon Papers to NY Times reporter Neil Sheehan (Justin Swain).  Rumors of this explosive story carried its way to Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), executive editor of the Washington Post, and Bradlee was determined to get the story as well.  Despite words of caution from Post owner and publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), Bradlee’s reporters got themselves into the game with the rival NY Times, and stories about the truth of America’s involvement were published in newspapers for all the world to see.  Naturally the Nixon White House was enraged, and triggered the most important discussion and legal battles in history concerning the freedom of the press as defined in the First Amendment.

This is a milestone film.  It is a taunt, well constructed narrative depicting real events that are critical to American history.  It is both a suspenseful film, and an inspirational story without being preachy or heavy-handed.  The acting is top notch with an all star cast.  Besides Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, both likely candidates for Best Actor and Best Actress Oscar nominations, Bob Odenkirk and Matthew Rhys are major assets that upped the level of talent in this production.  The film is not only hugely entertaining to watch, it is a riveting story that needed to be told.  And yes, it has the additional merit of being timely, as once again government forces are assaulting the press with accusations of “fake news”.  Go see this movie.  For my money, it deserves to win the Best Picture Oscar.

Mini Trailers:  JFK Speech – “The United States, as the world knows, will never start a war.”

Bradlee – “Tell the other papers that the only way to protect the right to publish is to publish.”

Kate Graham – “The Nixon White House is nothing if not vindictive.”

Bradlee – “We are sucking hind tit in our own back yard.  Let’s do our job.  Find those pages.”

Nixon – “As far as the Times goes, hell, they’re our enemies.”

Graham – “If a federal judge stops the Times, I don’t see how we could publish, even if we get a copy.”

Post Reporter – “They’re going to lock you up, Dan!”  Ellsberg – “Wouldn’t you go to prison to stop this war?”

Bradlee – “If we don’t hold them accountable, then my God, who will?”  Graham – “We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper!”

Graham – “How could you do all these things and lie to us all?”  McNamara – “We were trying to drive Ho Chi Minh to the bargaining table.  Our decision making process was…”  Graham – “Flawed.”

Bradlee – “If we don’t publish we lose, the country will lose.  If we don’t publish Nixon will win, and he’ll win the next one and the next one.”

Graham – “This is no longer my father’s company, it is no longer my husband’s company, it is my company.  Anyone who doesn’t understand that probably shouldn’t serve on the board.”

Nixon – “I want it understood that no reporter from the Washington Post will ever be in the White House again.”

The Defense of the First Amendment:  Justice Black of the Supreme Court wrote the decision that vindicated the Post and the Times to print their stories:

In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. }The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. … [W]e are asked to hold that … the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Judiciary can make laws … abridging freedom of the press in the name of ‘national security.’ … To find that the President has ‘inherent power’ to halt the publication of news … would wipe out the First Amendment and destroy the fundamental liberty and security of the very people the Government hopes to make ‘secure.’ … The word ‘security’ is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment.

The Post Movie Poster



Movie:  Sully

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   On January 15, 2009, the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 were in a hurry to get on their plane at La Guardia Airport and get on to Charlotte.  It was just another routine day filled with normal concerns, until their plane took off.  Then 208 seconds in the air later, they found themselves on a jet making an emergency landing in the Hudson River.  The “Miracle on the Hudson” was the fact the plane landed safely and intact, and that all 155 passengers and crew were quickly rescued with only a few minor injuries.

The fact that Captain “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) performed an amazing feat of flying under very adverse conditions is not questioned.  But hours after the plane ditched in the water, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is examining the actions of the crew under a microscope, and serious questions are raised.  Did Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) make sound decisions?  Could they have made an emergency landing back to La Guardia, or nearby Teterboro Airport?  These questions and many others hang over the pilots’ heads, while the media frenzy swirls about them and anoint them as national heroes.  One very possible outcome, if fault is assigned to Sully, is loss of a pension after 42 years as a pilot.  Sharing this concern is Sully’s wife Lorraine (Laura Linney), who must agonize alone while Sully and Jeff Skiles remain sequestered and run the gauntlet of the NTSB investigation.

This is just a terrific movie on every level.  The action scenes showing the brief and terrifying flight of US Airways 1549 is riveting.  Likewise, the tension building up to the NTSB hearing is suspenseful and eye-opening.  The public had no clue of the drama going on behind the scenes.  Clint Eastwood at 86 years old is still the master film maker; this is his best film since Million Dollar Baby.  Naturally, the acting is first rate.  Tom Hanks captures the dedication of Captain Sully perfectly, who is tortured by doubts as he must handle the burden of defending his actions.  Hanks must get a Best Actor nomination from this film.  It has been 21 years since he won the Oscar for Forrest Gump, and about time he gets recognized again.  See this movie; I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Sully to NTSB – “It was not a crash; it was a forced water landing.”

Lorraine to Sully – “I’m thinking of running over the press with my car.”

TV Reporter – “Why Captain Sullenberger made the decision only he can answer.  But we now know it was the wrong decision.”

Jeff Skiles – “Can you believe they charge $5 for a Snickers?”

David Letterman to Crew Members – “What was the first thing you heard coming from the cockpit?”  Crew – “Brace for impact!”  Letterman – “Ever hear that from the cockpit before?”

Katie Couric – “How do you feel when people call you a hero?”

Jeff Skiles to NTSB – “If he had followed the damn rules, we’d all be dead!”

Air Traffic Controller – “I guess you haven’t heard.  I lost FL 1549.”  Friend – “I guess you haven’t heard.  He landed the son of a bitch!”

Sully – “No one warned us.  No one told us we were going to lose two engines at a lower altitude than any plane in history.”

The real Sully to FL 1549 Passengers – “We will be joined in our hearts and minds forever.”

Theme Music – Clint Eastwood is a very talented man.  He wrote the music for the theme song Flying Home, and co-wrote lyrics with Tierney Sutton.

Post Credits – Stay for the credits and see many of the real passengers with Captain Sully and his wife Lorraine.  She makes a point of thanking them for the Christmas cards they still receive from them.



A Hologram For The King

Movie:  A Hologram For The King

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Middle age can be a very tough time in life; just ask Alan Clay (Tom Hanks).  He used to be the bright young man on his way to the top in the business world, had a beautiful wife, had a wonderful daughter named Kit (Tracey Fairaway), the huge house in the suburbs – it was the American Dream come to fruition.  Until it all started to turn to crap.  The economy took a down turn, the marriage fell apart, and even after being forced to sell the house in the divorce, Alan can’t even afford to send his daughter to college.  Clay’s boss bluntly lays it on the line to him, as Alan prepares to go to Saudi Arabia to make an important sales pitch for the company.  “The only reason we are sending you, Alan Clay, is your connection to a nephew to the King of Saudi Arabia.”  It is pretty much understood that either Alan makes the sale, or doesn’t bother to come back.

Soon Alan is in Saudi Arabia, a country totally foreign to him in every way.  He discovers his careful plans and agenda have gone to hell in a hand basket.  His small team of three young Information Technology (IT) experts are stuck in a tent in the desert with no Wi Fi connection, or even air conditioning.  Saudi officials are never around when they are supposed to be.  It seems problematic as to whether Alan Clay will even get a chance to pitch his company’s cutting edge holographic IT system, to the king or anyone else.  Alan seems destined to travel forever from his luxury hotel to the desert site with his loyal driver Yousef (Alexander Black), because Alan can’t seem to wake up in the mornings to catch the shuttle.  To make matters worse, Alan has medical issues, and finds himself relying on the care of Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), one of the very few women physicians allowed to practice medicine in the country.

This is a very good film for a number of reasons.  Tom Hanks is superb in the role of a middle aged man who feels his life has peaked, and he is desperately trying to hold it together to make one last sales pitch to save his career and maybe his self esteem as well.  Sarita Choudhury is a marvelous actress, portraying a dignified and talented professional woman in a society that frankly discourages those traits.  The movie also gives a few glimpses into what a totally different world Saudi Arabia is.  To the American eye, things move very slowly there, if at all.  Their culture has subtle currents that we just cannot understand.  The movie plot develops slowly, but that is intentional.  This is not an action movie, this is a tour de force for Tom Hanks.  Go see it to savor a great actor in his prime.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Alan to Young Woman – “They can only kill me with a golden bullet.  Get it?  Lawrence of Arabia.”  Young Woman – “Who?”

Alan to Yousef – “You were in the lobby for five minutes.  What kind of bomb could anyone install in five minutes!”

Alan – “There was a lot going on over there yesterday.”  Yousef – “Yeah, that’s where they hold the executions.”

Hanne – “The king hasn’t been here for a while.”  Alan – “How long is a while?”  Hanne – “I’ve been here for 18 months, and he hasn’t been here yet.”

Yousef – “He’s a swinger.  He goes to Europe to have sex with boys.”  Alan – “So he’s gay?”  Yousef – “Gay?  No.  You think that means he’s gay?”

Zahra – “Divorce is pretty complicated in this country.”  Alan – “Divorce is pretty complicated in any country.”

Bridge Of Spies

Movie:  Bridge Of Spies

Rating:  5 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In the 1950s the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was at its peak.  Nuclear arsenals were growing, political leaders for both countries rattled sabers, and the CIA and FBI were in a constant war with the Soviet’s KGB spy networks.  It was a time of great tension for the average American citizen, and schools held drills for children to get under their desks in case of a nuclear strike.

In 1957, the FBI had been watching a suspected Soviet spy in Brooklyn, NY, and finally sprung the trap and arrested him.  It turned out that they had snared Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), a colonel in the KGB who was running a spy network in the U.S.  The American public, ever fearful of the Russians, demanded swift justice be dealt out to this spy.  A number of prominent attorneys were asked to represent Abel as his defense lawyer, but turned it down.  Finally, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an attorney for an insurance firm who had experience as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crime trials, agreed to represent Rudolf Abel.

Fast forward to 1960, and the United States were using the secret U2 spy planes to make long flights over the Soviet Union to photograph their installations.  Flying at 70,000 feet, it was believed that the U2 planes were impervious to attack from the Russians.  This belief was shattered on May 1, 1960 when an SA-2 surface to air missile tore into the wing of the aircraft flown by Lt Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell), who was captured by the Soviets and put on trial as a spy.  The United States was embarrassed to have been caught using their spy planes, but officially left Lt Powers high and dry in the clutches of the Soviet Union.  Once again, James B. Donovan was called into service, this time to “unofficially” try and rescue Powers and bring him home.

This is a very powerful story based on real historical events, and the film  focuses on portrayals of the individuals that played key roles in the outcome of these events.  Tom Hanks is outstanding in his performance of James Donovan, a devoted family man, and a stalwart defender of the law.  He gives us insight into the character of Donovan as a man of the highest principles who would always do his duty to the utmost of his ability, even when it was unpopular with the government and the general public.  Don’t bother penciling in Tom Hanks’ name for a Best Actor nomination; use ink.   This is one of the best films of the year, and one of the best historical dramas ever filmed.

Acting Kudos:  Aside from Tom Hanks, there are other great performances.  Of particular note is Mark Rylance as Colonel Rudolf Abel.  Rylance plays the Soviet spy as a man of few words, but manages to convey him as a man of honor trying to do a difficult job for his country.  Abel also comes off as a man who is stoic, but with a dry sense of humor that is appreciated in such a serious role.   Rylance successfully pulls off a difficult task, which is to make a Soviet spy a real human being, and even likeable to some extent.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Donovan – “You can’t accuse Abel of being a traitor.  He’s not an American!

Donovan – “Frankly, everyone else has an interest in sending you to the electric chair, but you don’t seem alarmed.”  Abel – “Would it help?”

Judge to Donovan – “He will receive a capable defense, and God willing be convicted.”

CIA Agent – “The East German agenda and the Russian agenda may not be the same thing.

Donovan to East German – “Is there any outcome here where I will not be detained or shot?

Donovan – “Powers is the most hated man in America.  After Rudolf Abel…and me.”