Maybe it’s the white hair combed over his forehead or the look of strain on a mature man's sweat-stricken face.
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But in the recurring climax in Clint Eastwood’s latest epic “Sully" - that shows the 208 seconds of US Airways flight 1549 dramatic crash-landing on the Hudson River - the star of the movie, Tom Hanks, looks less like Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and more like another man entirely, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
During those fateful minutes, the lives of the flight’s 155 passengers and crew depended on the judgment, cool and experience of one man who took them on a dangerous adventure. The constant repetition of the crash scene, each time focusing on a different aspect, is like a dull memory that keeps messing with your mind. Was Sully really the hero proclaimed by the American media, or was he an irresponsible, moonstruck flyboy driven by thrill-seeking, confusion or folly to gamble all those lives instead of trying to return his packed plane to LaGuardia Airport?
Netanyahu has more than 208 seconds to prepare for a crash landing, but he also has a lot more passengers trapped on his IL Airways flight to nowhere. In contrast to Sully, who decided to act creatively even knowing the high cost of failure, Captain Bibi relies mainly on the automatic pilot, even knowing that his fuel tanks are nearing empty and the warning system is shouting “Too low – terrain – pull up, pull up.”
In fact, Captain Bibi isn’t even in the cockpit. He’s schmoozing in first class, chomping on a cigar as he talks to the press and insists on replacing the movies and TV shows in the in-flight entertainment system.
In “Sully,” Eastwood takes the leap of deconstructing American kitsch. He breaks down reality into human encounters, whether hostile or ridiculous – in keen contrast to the way the television cameras see things. Then he reconstructs it, not in thrall to some fantasy, but as the fruit of hard labor. He shows how, when crunch time comes, we need a leader who’s a hero, a leader who does the remarkable, even at the risk of paying a heavy personal price, even when the danger is clear.
Bibi isn’t trying to crash-land us on the Yarkon River. But he isn’t trying to get back to Israel’s international airport either. He’s flying on and on without direction, eye mask firmly in place, with the former flight attendant he married smiling at the passengers and reassuring them that the bumps are just turbulence.
Maybe what best illustrates Bibi’s situation is that “Twilight Zone” episode where anxiety-ridden William Shatner is convinced there’s a gremlin on the wing who’ll bring down the passenger plane any moment. (In the 1983 movie remake it’s John Lithgow.)
Eastwood’s film begins with Sully having a nightmare that his gamble is a catastrophic flop. The plane he’s guiding toward the Hudson doesn’t make it and crashes into an apartment building, exploding into flames. Maybe Bibi wakes up every morning from a similar nightmare in which every choice he makes, except for keeping his eyes wide shut, crashes the Zionist enterprise into the ground.