Finally, after all these years, two of the most recognisable stars in Hollywood, actor Tom Hanks and director Clint Eastwood, have come together to make a movie. And what better way could they have joined forces than to show audiences the true story of “The Miracle of the Hudson?” Marketing for the movie has been heavily focused around the descent of US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River, but Sully focuses more on the, until now, unseen story of the hearings between Captain Sully and National Transportation Safety Board that followed the safe landing. Even though it’s likely you know the ending while heading into the theater, the story is still subtly captivating and crowd pleasing thanks to a first-rate performance from Tom Hanks.
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. Despite the accolades, the famed pilot now faces an investigation that threatens to destroy his career and reputation.
While Sully’s actions as a pilot with more than 40 years of experience might be the centrepiece of the story, director Clint Eastwood makes sure to include every perspective of “The Miracle on the Hudson.” Like his near-perfect World War II movie, Flags of our Fathers, Eastwood leaves no stone unturned when it comes to retelling a simple, yet incredible, true story. From the rescue workers, passengers, to everyone that inhabits New York City, Eastwood streamlines the collaborative effort that resulted in there being no casualties in this potentially disastrous event. And despite the fact that Captain Sully was almost universally regarded as a hero, there were those at the NTSB who questioned his decision to land in the Hudson.
Tom Hanks gives a sympathetically graceful performance as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, that is sure to nab him another Oscar nomination. He plays Captain Sully with ease, yet sure-fire confidence. Hanks doesn’t embellish Captain Sully, but rather depicts a man who was simply doing his job in a scenario that few have ever faced. Hanks has been seen in a number of different movies commanding vessels via land, air, and sea, yet his role in Sully feels different; whether it’s interacting with regular people in New York City who call him a hero, cooperating with investigators, or doing press interviews, Hanks’ silent, piteous humanity as Captain Sully feels pragmatic in the best way possible. As a reluctant hero, Hanks’ Sully recounts his actions in visions that show different scenarios that could have ended horrifically for him and everyone aboard the flight. In fact, the understated way Eastwood shows us how Captain Sully potentially saved more than 155 passengers actually could be off-putting for some viewers.
As for other characters in the movie, Aaron Eckhart is superb as Hanks’ right-hand man, First Officer Jeff Skiles. Laura Linney does a fine job as Captain Sully’s wife, even though all of her scenes take place with her talking on the telephone. Mike O’Malley plays a prototypical antagonist as the head NTSB investigator of the water landing as he simply tries to get to the bottom of things. From a technical standpoint, cinematographer Tom Stern thrusts us into the cockpit during “The Miracle on the Hudson,” making the experience all the more intense. To fully appreciate Sully for the way it is presented, it begs to be seen in IMAX. Almost entirely shot in IMAX (which is unheard of these days), it makes the experience all the more thrilling as you watch Flight 1549 descend into the Hudson River. Luckily, Eastwood doesn’t boast a big, overdramatic score when he sets the stage for the water landing, choosing instead to let the sounds of emergency vehicles rushing to the scene take over.
At a brisk 96 minutes, Sully doesn’t overstay its welcome. Sully probably won’t receive a Best Picture nomination from the Oscars, but it stands to receive a few nominations from a technical standpoint (along with Hanks almost surely getting a Best Actor nomination). Sully is not as memorable as the recent aviation movie Flight (a movie that feels eerily similar to Sully), but Eastwood’s straightforward take on the extraordinary landing is his best movie in quite some time. Sticking the landing nicely, Sully is proof that Eastwood still as some fuel left in the tank as a director before his illustrious career eventually comes to an end (even though that doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon at the prime age of 86).