Directed by: Clint Eastwood – Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
It is highly unlikely that anyone thinking of viewing this movie doesn’t know the back-story, as it is such recent history. The Sully of the title is Captain Chelsey ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who famously landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River in 2009, after birds flew into their engines disabling them.
His quick thinking actions saved all 155 passengers. The story was huge at the time, partly because it was such a wonderful tale of skill and survival (he executed a perfect water landing – a testament to his decades of flying experience) but also, as is addressed in the movie – it was a good news story about a plane in New York! In fact, it was a good news story about a plane in general, at a time when many aviation horrors had befallen the world.
As a friend of mine pointed out – much like Titanic – this means you pretty much know the ending going in. But don’t let that put you off, as there is far more to this story than just the dramatic crash, and director Eastwood even holds back on that until the final third of the movie, so it doesn’t overshadow the humanity of the story.
Everyone’s favourite everyman, Tom Hanks, plays Sully here, donning white hair and a moustache, but still looking like jolly old Tom Hanks underneath it – that is, until the tale gets going, and then you completely believe the transformation. Rather than just dealing with the crash à la the (fictional) Airport movies, this opens with the after-effects, with Sully struggling with PTSD, and he and his co-pilot facing interrogation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who are trying to apportion blame to them.
Most of the movie deals with the stress he is under. On the one hand he is being deemed a hero, but on the other he is a humble man, who just did his job, and he is having difficulty processing his persecution at the hands of the NTSB, who can ruin his career if they rule he was at fault.
Although this deals with a dramatic incident, the action is very reserved. It relies on stoic and contained performances from Hanks, Eckhart, Linney et al, and a thoughtful and understated script. For most people, the obvious instinct would to be to go for the ‘money shot’, and show the crash.
However, Eastwood holds back on that, instead choosing to show us the humanity beneath the drama. When we do finally witness the reconstruction of those fateful events, the CGI, stunts, and effects are so good it’s flawless. Lest you have any doubt, they run actual footage of the rescue of the passengers during the credits.
It is nice to see the human anxieties behind the heralded heroics, and Eastwood makes sure that here Sully, his crew and his wife are completely complex and rounded characters – otherwise this wouldn’t work. You need to understand there is more to them than that January day on the Hudson, in order to care about them.
A surprisingly gentle tale, given the core of the story, Sully shows humanity at its best. There are a few scenes with the NTSB that get very technical, and drag somewhat, but you can’t fault any of the actors, and, on the whole, this is a heart-warming drama that even the biggest cynic should enjoy, given the positive outcome – especially in light of recent events.
In Cinemas Now! See Trailer Below: