Clint Eastwood is back to have another crack at the true story of another modern American hero. Unlike his previous attempt at such a genre (American Sniper), Sully is crafted beautifully in more ways than one. And like American Sniper, it is evidently a very personal story to share from Eastwood and his star, Tom Hanks. Ultimately, this film is a prime example of showcasing how people hate what they don’t understand and that Sully is just a normal, humble guy trying to do the right thing. And damn is he good at that.
Sully tells the story of Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) who on January 15, 2009, successfully manoeuvred his disabled plane to land on the waters of the Hudson River, in process saving the 155 passengers on board. That incredible act could not have been accomplished without the help of his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). Despite saving countless of lives and being labelled as a national hero in the media, he and his partner were the subjects of a thorough investigation by the NTSP (National Transportation Safety Board) whose actions proved to be a threat to ruin his decorated career and reputation.
Flashbacks of the ordeal and other similar incidents Sully has experienced throughout his life of flying were nicely sandwiched between the ongoing scrutiny of the incident. Those moments were imperative in allowing us to establish that Sully was not just any ordinary pilot; he was an aviation safety professional who had invaluable experience in the face of such harrowing situations. In other words, he knew exactly what he was doing. It was vital in making us cheer him on even more throughout the immense amount of pressure he was facing. At the times in the film when all odds seemed to be stacked against him, it builds up our anticipation and jubilation for his eventual triumph over his prosecutors and doubters. An unprecedented aviation feat indeed.
As seen in Eastwood’s previous films such as American Sniper and Million Dollar Baby, he enjoys placing us right into where the action is ensuing and show us his characters at their most crucial periods. Whether it is a soldier’s darkest moments in Iraq, a boxer’s highlight reel and now an emergency landing sequence along the Hudson River, it is rivetingly tense and expertly constructed in a typical Eastwood fashion. I like to think of it as an episode of Air Crash Investigation on Discovery Channel. Just that Tom Hanks is the pilot, everything looks as real as it gets and I’m watching it on a big screen with surround sound.
Captain Sully’s cool and calm demeanour in handling the crisis is ideally what should be expected of his job. But he never really appears to show the slightest signs of stress or even aware of the consequences should he fail. Which seems quite unrealistic given the stakes involved – a potential devastating loss of all 155 lives on board and the fact that he was steering, what possibly looked like New York’s next aircraft disaster. The last one being 9/11 and we all know how that turned out. New York wasn’t having the best of luck with airplanes to say the least as a character would go on to say in the film. So apt is the release date as well which is right before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. God bless America.
With the inhuman degree of composure he displayed when he resolved his dilemma during crunch time, it isn’t very easy to understand why he was haunted by the freakish visions of his plane crashing into the New York skyscrapers. Despite those images being constantly repeated in his head, he constantly reaffirms to everyone who questions him that the plane wouldn’t make it to the landing strip. So it was vague as to why he had those nightmares if he were so certain that the plane wouldn’t make it. Contradicting if I would say so or maybe I am just nit-picking.
Both Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks have fluctuated between their own ups and downs in recent years but I’m glad to say that Sully is more than just an Oscar bait. It is a well-directed, well-acted masterpiece which will hold its ground as a timeless classic in years to come. But Oscar bait or not, definitely do not count Sully out when awards season comes around because we all want to glorify this son of a bitch who saved so many American lives. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood (American Sniper, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus)
Written by: Todd Komarnicki
Based on: ‘Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters’ by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Running time: 96 minutes