Written by Tommy Tracy
The true story of Chesley “Sully” Sullivan, a veteran pilot who heroically landed a commercial airline in the Hudson River. Sully deals with the aftermath of his decisions and copes with being labeled a “hero”.
The word “hero” gets thrown around a lot. From celebrities to parents, a hero can come in all shapes and forms. Most of the time, a hero is a small part of someone’s life, usually only a hero to one person. Every so often, however, a real life Superman comes along. Someone who risks everything to make the right decision. This is the case with Sully, a film based on the real life pilot (portrayed by Tom Hanks) who saved 155 people (and potentially hundreds of others) by landing an aircraft in the Hudson River.
With veteran director Clint Eastwood and arguably the greatest living actor, Tom Hanks, it’s reasonable to believe Sully is fantastic on principle alone. Eastwood and writer (Tom Komarnicki) craft a beautiful story of a man’s life and heroism, jumping between present day and flashbacks of a younger Sully and the historic plane crash. Much of the film centers around the investigation as to why Sully and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), landed their aircraft in the river instead of returning to one of the nearby airports. Through present time we see the anguish of Sully, wrestling with the possibility that his decision may have actually been the wrong one. Is he a bad pilot losing his touch at the end of his career, or a hero destined to be congratulated for the rest of his life?
Flashbacks of the scene are brilliantly shot as Eastwood focuses more on the internal figures (pilots, crew, passengers, etc.) instead of the external factors (birds and buildings). This creates an unsettling atmosphere for the audience as they wonder just how close they were to crashing. Even though most are aware that everyone survives, these experiences create a white-knuckle ride of fear and anxiety. Through a small dream sequence, he even believes for a split second that he crashed the plane and killed everyone on board. This scene in particular was rough to watch, especially for someone like me, who is deathly afraid of flying.
Hanks, per usual, gives an Oscar worthy performance of a tortured man, unsure of his future. He is a selfless man, more concerned with the safety of everyone around him than himself. Eckhart portrays Skiles as a faithful co-pilot and friend, willing to stand by Sully no matter the consequence. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Eckhart is a fantastic actor who is highly underrated. He really shines here, which is hard to do sharing a screen with Hanks. The rest of the cast is rounded out by bit players who are serviceable, but it was nice to see Sam Huntington, one of my favorite lesser known actors.
There are faults with the film. The portrayal of the National Transportation Safety Board is nothing short of ruthless. A reoccurring theme throughout the film is the importance of “doing one’s job”, which Sully and Skiles reiterate over and over. My question is, aren’t the NTSB just doing their jobs to get to the bottom of the investigation? It’s understandable to have to create some sort of villain in the story, but there could have been ways to make these people come off better and look, dare I say, human?
Who needs serial killers and demons to make a terrifying film? Sully proves that you can create fear by mimicking real life events and one man’s nightmare of what could have been. I’ve mentioned I’m terrified of flying. If you share that fear, this film will be a bit difficult to watch. We all probably share the fear of our flight going down, but Sully kept a level-head and combined it with his 40+ years of experience to make sure that everyone on board was safe. The man is a true hero of our time and I hope this film does the man personal justice.
Final Grade: 8/10
P.S. I noticed they released this film two days before the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Was this done on purpose, or is that sheer coincidence? If anyone has any ideas, please, let us know.