Sully Movie Review
One hundred fifty five crew and passengers were on US Airways Flight 1549 leaving New York City’s LaGuardia Airport when birds struck and destroyed both engines. Captain Chesley Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles miraculously land the airplane
in on the icy waters of the Hudson River. All One hundred fifty-five crew and passengers survive. SULLY follows this well known 2009 event and the subsequent immediate impact of Captain Sully being deemed a hero by the press but then questioned on his decisions by investigators that could ultimately destroy his reputation and career.
SULLY is an interesting film because it does not shy away from the fact that it follows a fairly recent event that most people are quite familiar with. However, what they might not know is the extensive official inquiry into the crash landing and the PTSD symptoms that Captain Sully suffered from following the incident. Director Clint Eastwood masterfully weaves the intriguing story into a gripping tale of inspirational heroism. Fully aware of how the story ends, I still found my body tensing as I began to squeeze my armrest and hold my breath, even being emotionally moved by characters’ actions through such a frightening near-death experience. Eastwood somehow constructs a captivating experience through character and carefully detailed beats in a story that everyone knows the results.
With white hair and a matching mustache, Tom Hanks plays the calm, collected Captain Sully. But beneath the steady exterior is a man who is internally struggling with his decision, frightened by what could have happened, and worried about everyone but himself. Enough cannot be said about the talent and charisma of Tom Hanks. He has the ability to immediately convey trust and understanding as the best possible everyman we want to be. Not everything he’s in is perfect but Hanks is always perfect within. SULLY is another great example on how one man’s performance can elevate material beyond its worth. Aaron Eckhart is also superb as First Officer Jeff Skiles, grounding some of the more dramatic moments with friendly support and comic relief.
SULLY isn’t without problems though. The supporting characters are limited to one note descriptions. The investigators (played by Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan) are skewed as villains, while Sully’s wife (played by Laura Linney) spends her screen time on the other end of a phone asking when he’s coming home. I’m sure the hardship on his family had a major impact but it feels more like filler within the context of the film. Doing the opposite effect of what’s desired, Eastwood’s lullaby score lessens all the tension built by the exquisite editing from Blu Murray. Ultimately, these are all small aspects in a film that works nearly flawlessly through all the important moments. At 96 minutes, Eastwood mostly does an excellent job of not overstepping the material and keeping the content on track.
The overuse of the word “hero” has been discussed to great length. Regardless of one’s trained profession, if you contribute to saving a life, I believe “hero” is an appropriate label. Captain Sully, First Officer Skiles, the three flight attendants, the ferry boat crew, the Coast Guard, the NYPD’s scuba team and anyone else who helped in rescuing the 155 lives did something special that terrifying winter day in New York. While SULLY regrettably avoids the mention of God, the film does recognize the spirit of a miracle and the goodness of people working together to help one another.
The highest compliment I can give SULLY, other than the fact that it stars Tom Hanks, is that virtually everyone will enjoy it. While this isn’t an award winning film, again, other than the possibility of Tom Hanks, SULLY is a solid piece of positivity in recent American history, which is exactly the feel-good inspiration that people are yearning for. I pray the next time I’m on a flight, or any transportation for that matter, that I’ll be lucky enough to have people like Sully and Skiles piloting the cockpit. In fact, I’d be happy with Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart in that role as well.