Film Review: “Sully”

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr 35 mins
Warner Bros

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

Before I saw this film, this is what I knew about Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger: he landed a plane on the Hudson River and then he went to the Super Bowl, heralded as a hero. If only life was that easy.

January 15, 2009. A normal day for all involved, unless you’re a passenger on US Airways Flight 1549. As the world knows now, during take-off the plane met up with a flock of Canadian geese, several of who were sucked into both engines, rendering the plane powerless. Despite initial attempts to return to the airport, pilot “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) decides to set the plane down in the middle of the Hudson River. Miraculously, all 155 people on board survive. Sully is labeled a hero but before he can get patted on the back he is informed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that he is being investigated for possible negligence. Computer simulations show that had he turned the plane around as intended, he could have landed safely at several nearby airports. Did he make the right decision?

Centuries from now, should movies still be being made, film historians will still be talking about Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood. Hanks has two Oscars for his acting and three other nominations while Eastwood has four Oscars – two for directing – and another seven nods. “Sully” is Eastwood and Hanks at the top of their game. Our generation’s Jimmy Stewart, Hanks has excelled in playing the “everyman” who is forced to face impossible odds. Here he is tasked with the emotional weight of the film. “I’ve flown millions of passengers for 40-years and I’m going to be judged by what I did in 208 seconds,” he laments. Sadly, he is right. The airline knows there is going to be lawsuits, and if someone can be blamed, the better off for them. Hanks gives Sully a quiet pride. Even when he’s sure he made the right decision he can’t help but question himself. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, as Sully goes from appearing on David Letterman to having vivid dreams about the plane crashing into the New York skyline.

Eastwood has always been a simple director, letting his camera almost eavesdrop on the action. Here he puts us squarely in the shoes of the title character, to the point where you’re quietly second-guessing yourself. As usual, he stocks his films with top acting talent, including Eckhart (in a sweet mustache) as co-pilot Jeff Skiles and Linney as Sully’s wife, Lorraine. A great group of supporting actors, including Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan and Anna Gunn make up the NTSB group investigating the incident.

A quick note: the film is being released the same weekend America will remember the 15th Anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. The film depicts some troubling shots, via Sully’s dreams, of airplanes crashing into buildings. Though part of a dream, the images are haunting so keep that in mind when deciding to bring a young child along. That being said, if you want to introduce your little one to a true hero, introduce them to “Sully.”