Directed by Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) and written by Todd Komarnicki, Sully is a biographical drama based on the memoir by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, which recounts the events of January 15, 2009.
As you may recall, on that fateful day, Captain Sully successfully marshaled US Airways Flight 1549 after its engines failed when it hit a flock of geese. With no airport in close enough proximity, he did so by making a judgment call and by landing the plane on the Hudson River, miraculously saving every life on board, including his own.
As far as aeroplane disaster films go, Sully flies appreciably high, though it never quite hits full altitude, mainly due to the nature of the biopic and some issues with the direction by Eastwood. A customary portion of Sully showcases the flight and the emergency landing, but we aren’t fully shaken by the suspense because we already know the outcome.
That being said, these scenes certainly are entertaining to watch, especially due to the red herrings thrown our way in the shape of PTSD-related nightmares from the mind of the captain. What’s more, the visuals and fantastic sound effects certainly do a great job of placing us in the shoes of all those on board. With air travel such a common experience for so many, it is easy to lose yourself in these scenes even if you know all will end well.
As far as aeroplane disaster films go, Clint Eastwood’s latest cinematic venture flies fairly high
While the film treats Sully (Tom Hanks) as a hero, there are some questions raised during the official inquiry to add to the drama. For one, we learn that one of the engines was still functioning at idle. For the other, simulations reveal that the plane could have landed safely at any of the airports available to it.
Here, the film cleverly has us wondering for an instant if Sully made the right decision, though thankfully without being disrespectful to the captain. But while the inquiry board presses Sully with accusations, our hero maintains that he made the right decision. Only towards the end do we have a conclusive answer.
As mentioned earlier, Sully also tackles PTSD, a subject that Eastwood has grappled with before. Here, the film gives us a light examination of what Sully is going through, though I would have preferred a deeper look.
Sully sometimes feels a bit motorised as if it is running on autopilot. Over the years, Eastwood has directed plenty of films. They’ve varied in terms of quality, but they’ve all been true to the film-maker’s emotions, and have been long and at times self-indulgent.
On the other hand, Sully isn’t a particularly long flight and feels uncharacteristically efficient and submissive during its more pedestrian moments.
Where the film stands out is in the performances. In the lead role, Tom Hanks is pretty much the perfect actor for the film, coming across as dependable and quietly heroic, while offering just the right touch of vulnerability. Playing his co-pilot Jeff Skiles in the other top performance of the film is Aaron Eckhart. Thanks to them as well as the other performers, Sully successfully negotiates some of the turbulence it faces.
Rated PG13 for some peril and brief strong language
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, October 9th, 2016