In 2009, the world was captivated by the story of the Miracle on the Hudson. A commercial airliner had lost both engines shortly after take off, and quick thinking by Captain Chesley Sullenberger was all the prevented a potentially deadly crash as the plane was steered into the Hudson River. Such a piece of good news following an aircraft accident was unprecedented.
So of course, Hollywood stepped in, and here comes Clint Eastwood’s exploration of the event in the form of Sully. Eastwood’s recent work in biopics has been sketchy at best – J. Edgar, Jersey Boys and American Sniper all missed the mark in some ways – but Sully is an excellent return to form for the elder statesman.
Obviously the plot of this movie centres around the Mircale on the Hudson itself. But as the film itself takes great pains to remind us, that event only lasted 208 seconds. Which probably isn’t long enough to classify as a feature length film. So how do they pad it out? By exploring the event through a safety hearing. Following the miraculous landing, Captain Sullenberger, or Sully, was summoned the safety briefings by the airline where he was required to explain his actions which may not have been the safest course of action overall. Through this trial, we get to experience the event through a number of different angles and perspectives, whilst exploring how the traumatic events of the day, and his newfound celebrity, affected Sully himself.
It’s one of the most tastefully done biopics I’ve seen in a long time, and a lot of that comes down to the casting of Tom Hanks as Sully. Hanks has long forged out a career of being the “every man hero”, someone who you’d trust to save the day even though he lacks the action movie star stereotype seen in people like Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson. And that’s something the definitely fits the quietly spoken, humble Captain Sullenberger in real life. Added to that with Hanks’ remarkable acting ability (the guy has 2 Oscars), where watching the film you almost forget that its not the actual Sully on screen, and this is a performance that may create a bit of buzz come award season.
Eastwood also manages to compliment Hanks with a vast array of acting talent in supporting roles. Aaron Eckhart is outstanding as co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and the rest of the cast includes such luminaries as Laura Linney, Ann Cusack and Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn, all of whom bring great pathos to their roles. Clint Eastwood may have had a rough patch in his career, but he still has the ability to get any actor he wants.
Apparently the Invisible Man was unavailable, however
The movie had so many positives, many of them listed above, but I’d like to give a specific shout out to the visuals of this movie. The film was shot specifically for IMAX, and particularly in scenes depicting the landing itself, you could definitely tell. This is a film made for the big screen, and if you get a chance I’d definitely recommend checking it out there.
It’s also incredibly emotional filmmaking. Sully may have become an American hero overnight, but that in itself comes with its own struggles that Eastwood and Hanks portray so beautifully on screen. And you really feel for Sully in all of this. If the real life Sully is half the man that Hanks portrayed him as (and from everything I’ve seen or read about the guy, he was far more than that), then Sully is one of the true shining lights of humanity in this world, and to have pen-pushers putting him through the wringer just in case the insurance company can save a few bucks was infuriating and upsetting to watch at times. I mean, even more infuriating and upsetting than a regular dealing with an insurance company.
Pictured: An artists impression of me dealing with an insurance company. The artist did a wonderful job of drawing my nose. Just marvelous.
Are there negatives? Of course. And I’m a critic, so I’m gonna expose them! Namely, there’s illusions to family drama within the Sullenberger household. Sully hesitates whenever he is asked about his home life, and whenever he talks to his wife (Laura Linney), there is often tears involved. But what those problems are (outside of CNN and Fox News jostling for space in the front yard) are never really explained. It wasn’t really something that was needed for the story, but in that case, the allusions felt slightly out of place. Still, whatever it was that Sully’s wife was going through, Linney played it superbly so well done to her.
Overall, this is a fantastic movie, and keep an ear out because you might be hearing a lot more about it come Oscar time.
4.3/5 – A fantastic biopic that stays mostly on target.