Review – Sully (2016)


by Kevin Muller

“Sully” has to be one of the shortest movies that has its eye on the Oscar that I’ve seen in a long time.   As with the incident, which only lasted 208 seconds, the movie is short and is piloted by an expert.   While Sully successfully landed the plane in the Hudson, Clint Eastwood guides this story quickly and  to the point.

Based on the incredible true story, on a cold and frigid January day in Manhattan, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, a pilot with over forty years of experience, guided his damaged passenger aircraft, with 255 people on board, into the Hudson River for an emergency landing.  It was a risky move but saved the lives of every single person on board, both crew and guests.   The media hailed him as hero, rightfully so, but the National Transformational Safety Board soon intervened to investigate the incident.  It was in their belief that  Sully could’ve landed the plane in any of the three airports that they were trying to direct him to at the time.   Both his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, played by Aaron Eckhart, and his own wings were being threatened with being taken away for their irresponsible actions.   

In the movie, all this unnecessary stress, considering he saved everyone’s lives, is making it harder for him to overcome the slight Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that he is battling.   His dreams, which one of them is the opening for the movie, are full of imagery of what could’ve happened if it all went south.  Skiles, is also plagued with similar and haunting what ifs of that specific day.  Both men have to battle their own problems while trying to appeal to the board that they made the right decision.

Now, Sully was and is a hero, but playing him is quite a challenge.  He is a man of action who is quite stoic in his being, so only an actor like Hanks could make him feel like an interesting character.  Hanks, takes on this challenge and completely succeeds in selling the emotional rollercoaster that Sully went through during this time.   Eastwood, and screenwriter  Todd Komarnicki, don’t dwell on the PTSD too much, since Sully would never want to burden people with his own problems.   Hell, he keeps insisting that he isn’t a hero but someone who just did his job.   It keeps both the performance and movie from becoming overly dramatic.  The performance, like the subject, is quiet and very affecting.  Aaron Eckhart, who since 2008’s “The Dark Knight” hasn’t really run with the star power that movie gave him, gives a great performance for Hanks to work with.  Skiles is a man who is loyal, understanding, strong, and appreciative of what Sully did and who he is as a man.   He also fully realizes that he would’ve probably been dead if another pilot was with him that day and followed procedure.  As in “The Dark Knight” Eckhart gets overshadowed by his co-star but that shouldn’t let you ignore what he has given to Skiles.   It is a fully realized performance that I hope the Academy will at least grant a nomination.

Eastwood, who has never been a flashy director, pretty much sticks to his straightforward style in the dramatic stages of the movie.  He lets the actors do their thing since he has one hell of a cast that includes the two mentioned, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, and Mike O’Malley.   Even the extras and the actresses who play the stewardesses are exceptional.   They have to be since the entire landing and rescue are recreated in the second half of the movie.   Eastwood beautifully recreates the entire sequence of events with the use of IMAX cameras.   For someone who really doesn’t dabble in over the top film making, he has created something that is thrilling and heart pounding.   Where he really succeeds is capturing the sense of unity, through team work, that the police and coast guard displayed that day.  Anyone in the aviation field, law enforcement, or the coastguard will be happy to see how honorable Eastwood portrays those workers.

Since the story is very simple, and the run time is short, Eastwood  includes scenes that seem like over shares.   We get a glimpse into Sully as a member of the Air force, performing a rescue, and as an adolescent flying a plane with the stoic like attitude already present in him.  The scenes do provide some insight, but nothing groundbreaking.   These scenes seem like they would be a part of an epic bio-pic, not a small scale one like this movie.    

Unlike Eastwood’s 2011 movie “J. Edgar”, the movie doesn’t feel drawn out or overly melodramatic.  It is a piece that honors the man that saved 255 people from, what they all were convinced, was certain death.    There are a slight few bumps, but when it soars….it soars.


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