TBS Muse

Popped Culture: Tom Hanks, the man with the same face

Approx Reading Time-10I recently saw Tom Hanks in Sully, but I couldn’t get past seeing Tom Hanks in Sully. Is it time for Tom to take on something crazy? Paging Doctor Lecter.


We all love Tom Hanks. His folksy nature and doting dad motif plants him front and centre to any American production that requires a sturdy assured type to be mildly threatened and navigate the narrative. Invade Normandy? Sure. Make friends with a volleyball? Why not? And this week, he added another skill to his CV, steering a plane successfully into the Hudson, in the real life biopic of all-American, airline hero, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, in Sully. I say Hanks’ achievement because it seems like he did it – that it wasn’t the character that achieved the feat but Hanks who was trusted to pilot a 747 for some reason. I didn’t even know Hanks was a pilot. Sully was an American hero played by an American hero, directed by the poster boy of American hero, anti-punk, baby-boomer, get off my lawn gruffness, Clint Eastwood. Poifek, right? Stars and Stripes (and Oscar bait) forever.

I wanted to love it – for ‘Murica, and for the man who somehow landed a plane on a fucking river.

However, when I saw the movie, all I could see was Tom Hanks in a moustache. Which is a central problem with Hanks. You can always rely on Hanks, but you can also rely on Hanks to be Hanks. Houston, we have a problem. Why? Suspension of disbelief is the main conserve spread onto the bread of filmmaking. I spent 96 minutes thinking, “Well, it’s a Tom Hanks movie, we know how it ends,” which was a strange thing to think, as I already knew the ending, as it was based on truth. But, for me, Sully was another case of Hanks’ gonna Hanks. Sleepless in Sullyattle.

DeNiro will always be Bickle, Pacino will always be Roma, as Brando will be Kurtz and Corleone. Tom, bless him, doesn’t have that. He did, early on, wearing the mask for Philadephia, and Forrest Gump, but Hanks, basically, will always be Hanks.

This is not an isolated incident. I can’t see the Tom for the Hanks. My brain can’t switch off for the two hours required, where can I trust that he’s someone else. Brad Pitt is another; as he eats and his way through another script, it leaves me thinking, “Brad Pitt doesn’t know anything about robbing a casino, because didn’t he only exist as the fun part of some other guy’s tortured brain?” George Clooney is another of this cabal, when erstwhile charm is needed to charm the pants off charm (be it vault lock or coffee merchandise). But at least Clooney and Pitt have the Coens to keep them slightly off kilter, to undercut the Hollywood assumption of who they are. Exhibit A for the Cloon would be Harry Pfarrer in Burn after Reading, the sex-obsessed, faux macho ex-agent who potentially may have never been an agent in the first place (substitute “agent” with “actor”).

I realise that not all actors have the endurance, or desire to be a chameleon their entire lives, as the method’s three great exponents DeNiro, Pacino and Brando exampled (and God-forbid Daniel Day-Lewis may prove to do; please don’t). A trio of acting power who got old, and perhaps lazy, choosing the roles opposite Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Chris Tucker, for fucksake. But even in the face of their recent crimes, DeNiro will always be Bickle, Corleone and LaMotta as Pacino will always be Corleone, Slade and Roma, as Brando will be Kurtz, Malloy and Corleone.

Tom, bless him, doesn’t have that. He did, early on, wearing the mask for Philadephia, and Forrest Gump – when I believed that he was a bit slow on the uptake but knew what love was – but Hanks, basically, will always be Hanks. He’s not of the method school, and he probably cares not for it. He, might be as another all-American typecast once espoused, “Too old for this shit”, but even perpetual good guy and American hero, Danny Glover, who popularised that truism (which he tacitly recanted, by continually doing the same shit regardless of his age), played the bad guy opposite Mark Wahlberg’s jarhead shooter in Shooter. While that movie was “okay”, it was fun to see a gleaning, hateful Glover pull the puppet strings, shifting evil forces against Marky Mark, even if you knew the ending.

With Hanks’ legacy secured as that nice bloke from next door who’d feed your pets for you when you’re away if you asked him, surely it’s time he took a punt at something dangerous, foolish or off-type. With the proliferation of superhero movies and remakes flooding the market, surely there’s opportunity afoot. Who wouldn’t want to see him as Hannibal Lecter, the Grinch or Ed Gein?


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