Sully, Snowden and 9/11
Another September 11 has come and gone — this year’s day marks 15 years since the 2001 Islamic terrorist attack on America — and I’m glad it’s over.
Memorials and remembrances ring hollow because America is worse, not better, since the act of war. Candlelight, flowers and vigils are matched in meaninglessness by empty slogans. Few Americans choose to recall and identify who attacked and why — Moslems waging jihad to destroy the West — let alone have a serious remembrance of what happened on that black Tuesday.
Among those that do, fewer seek to end states that sponsor terrorism, let alone engage in rational discourse over how to achieve what the late historian John David Lewis called “nothing less than victory” over the barbarians.
But two major new movies which relate to 9/11 contain the key to instilling what it takes to win.
Both films feature living heroes. Both pictures are somber studies of their real-life acts. Both movies portray the actions with depth, complexity and underlying causes.
Snowden, depicting the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information about the Obama administration’s indiscriminate, mass surveillance of Americans, opens this week (on Friday, Sept. 16). Sully, America’s number one new film about an airline pilot who saved his passengers and crew by trusting his own judgment, opened last week.
What these films have in common matters more, however, than what they do not. Both movies show the individualist opposing statism. Snowden and Sully dramatize the rational man — one who goes by reason, not faith. Both pictures deliver title characters based on books about real men who served in the United States military.
Snowden and Sully show the men’s military service in flashbacks to how they dealt with failure and adversity and demonstrate how these actions seeded their philosophies, ethics and, arguably, success.
But Sully and Snowden also show that success may be complicated, hard to gauge and extremely difficult to obtain, maintain and integrate into one’s life. These men are not like comic book superheroes with exaggerated powers to repel pain and injury.
This only makes their themes more intense.
Most encouraging — in the aftermath of 15 weary, divisive years of American pain, anxiety, lockdown, rising police statism and neverending jihad amid mass maiming, death and misery — is that Snowden and Sully are directed by two accomplished directors from the left and right of the political spectrum. Left-wing director Oliver Stone made Snowden and conservative director Clint Eastwood made Sully.
Both men not only made movies with the individual depicted as the hero; they made movies with men who are heroes because they went by reason and their own judgment. That their historic acts relate to 9/11 — Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger mastered a crippled passenger jet screaming across Manhattan’s skies and Edward Snowden disclosed mass government collection of data on Americans in the name of national security — means something good about America 15 years after September 11, 2001.
Oliver Stone and Clint Eastwood made movies which question the role of government and dramatize the harmful impact of statism on the life and rights of the individual. Sully and Snowden are good films with imperfections which reflect the desperate times in which we live. Yet like twin beacons in the fog of a nation losing itself since 9/11 (and long before that black Tuesday), they represent an American ideal that’s stronger, more powerful and true than the worst evil facing us: the supremacy of the individual.