Possible spoilers ahead!
On January 15, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his copilot Jeff Skiles managed to safely land their Airbus A320 in the middle of the Hudson River, after both of their engines were crippled when a flock of Geese collided with their plane.
After their incredible experience, Sully and Jeff find themselves flooded with attention and enthusiastic praise from both the public and the media. Everyone hails them as heroes, everyone, except the people who are investigating their water landing.
“Sully” takes place just days after the “Miracle on the Hudson,” and as the film opens, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and copilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) find themselves overwhelmed by the attention. Both are also shaken up and haunted by nightmares about their flight. Sully in particular, can’t stop wondering about what might have happened, had he made the wrong choice during their flight.
Things get worse when the National Transportation Safety Board begins the investigation to determine whether or not the pilots did, in fact, make the right call, By this point even Sully starts doubting and asking: did he needlessly endanger the lives of all 155 onboard?
I bet most people think the best scenes in “Sully are those of the actual flight and water landing. And while those scenes are done rather well, my favorite moments in “Sully” were the quieter moments, like when Sully asks a hotel manager to dry clean his uniform. Or when Jeff invites Sully to a steakhouse. Even the scenes where Sully jogs around New York at night were highlights.
“Sully” also uses a number of flashbacks, most of them looking back to the flight and landing sequence, depicting the chain of events from different vantage points. The good thing is, this sequence didn’t feel repetitious to me. I felt each time the film went back it was to add something to Sully’s tale.
Tom Hanks, not surprisingly, is amazing in this movie. He’s perfectly cast as Captain Sullenberger. and plays him as just a man trying to do his job. Hanks has an easy-going chemistry with Aaron Eckhart, who once again proves himself to be a solid character actor. Although Eckhart’s mustache didn’t do him any favors.
My only complaints are that we don’t get to know much about the rest of the flight crew. As Sully says at one point, this miracle landing was a team effort, so why not give us a little more insight into the flight attendants?
The same complaint might have worked with the passengers on the plane. But the film made up for that during the end credits. Here, we meet the real passengers, and about halfway through the credits, we get to see them reunite with the flight crew.
“Sully” is the latest directorial effort from Clint Eastwood, his first since 2014’s “American Sniper.” Eastwood may be in his mid eighties, and he may talk to empty chairs now and then. But, there is no denying, Clint Eastwood has directed some brilliant movies (except for “Jersey Boys”). “Sully” is well crafted, well acted film. And, to my surprise, “Sully” is also a thought-provoking movie.
“Sully” final score: 8.5
Sully amounts to a respectable yet unmemorable account of real-life heroism, despite fine performances and capable direction. It’s possible the reason the film doesn’t (pardon the wording) fly higher is that the story behind the “Miracle on the Hudson” simply would have been better served by a documentary that could have focused on more of the people that were involved (via in-depth interviews with the crew and passengers), instead of a docudrama that stretches out Sully’s personal experiences during the event to fit the mold of a feature-length film. Nevertheless, Sully is a perfectly decent option for those moviegoers who are in the mood to see a piece of dramatic storytelling for adults… though, a number of them may have already seen what is arguably a better, albeit fictionalized, version of the general story being told here, in the form of Flight.