When it comes to Clint Eastwood’s current directorial effort Sully starring Tom Hanks based on the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, one big problem looms for the film. How do you make an engaging film about an event that only took 208 seconds and one where the outcome is known. It’s not like Clint would change the ending to throw people off or viewers have forgotten about the heroic measures taken by Captain Chesley “Sully’ Sullenberger on January 15th, 2009. How do you give patrons something different from what they’re expecting when retelling the story of that cold afternoon in New York when Flight 1549 hit the water?
The answer is to have the audience question Sully’s actions and show he was not the only hero that day in the film. Sully has a bit of a shaky start that almost plays like a flash forward to the rest of film with the crash having already taken place. The opening scenes of Sully are full of visions of death and doubt that haunt that captain’s psyche. These sequences are very out-of-place and don’t lend much to the depth of the story as Sully gains instant fame after the his famous water landing. The surreal images seem like they’re going to prevent Sully from taking off, but an unlikely candidate saves this film in the form of the crash itself.
Once the flashbacks of the crash begin, Sully takes flight as Eastwood gives you multiple points of view of the crash from the passengers and the people who were involved in saving the lives of 155 people. The crash becomes a major player in the story almost like a body in a murder mystery that everyone examines to find out what happened and how things should have played out. The incredible water landing also shows you that it wasn’t a one man show when it came to making sure everyone was returned safe to their families on that frigid winter day. From the ferry boats drivers, LEOs and the crew including Sully’s outspoken and loyal co-pilot Jeff Skiles played marvelously by Aaron Eckhart, Eastwood shows through the crash and the events that followed how numerous people played an important role keeping everyone safe during this frightening incident.
Sully has some strong supporting performances from Eckhart and Mike O’Malley who plays an apprehensive investigator looking to sully (pun intended) the Captain’s good name, but two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks drives the film with his earnest depiction of Captain Sullenberger. Sully is not full of charisma or one to bask in the spotlight. He’s a serious and quiet man who is having his years of experience questioned over a decision he made that resulted in saving the entire crew and passengers aboard Flight 1549. Hanks and Eckhart make a good team throughout the film playing two different individuals who are still on the same page about what happened.
Tom Hanks especially shines in the 3rd Act during the hearings when his judgement is questioned and the subtle Captain decides to fight back the only way he knows how. By being honest about what happened on January 15th, 2009. After a precarious introduction meant to extend the film’s running time (the story is only based on 208 seconds worth of action), Tom Hanks’ first class performance and the unique way Eastwood decides to unfold the drama at hand helps keep Sully from being just an ordinary film about an extraordinary event we are all too familiar with.
Overall, I give Sully 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all T.M.’s reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell