Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney,
Director Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”, “Gran Torino”) doesn’t give the audience quite what they might expect with “Sully”. The film based on the incredible forced water landing of US Airways Flight 1549, isn’t structured like the Denzel Washington film Flight. The editing choices, breaking up the 208 second event, into a 96-minute feature film, is mostly effective. However, “Sully” is a Tom Hanks vehicle, the film only works if the two time Oscar winner loses himself inside the performance. The meme making the rounds on social media, about avoiding travel with Hanks is funny, but has more serious connotations toward repetitive situational roles he is choosing. “Sully” will be mentioned in the awards chatter, but a September release in combination with a lack of “wow factor” will likely prohibit it from becoming a major player.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Hanks) and his first mate Jeff Skiles (Eckhart) must defend their decision to land flight 1549 in the Hudson River. During ascension that January morning in 2009, the plane experienced a bird strike, resulting in duel engine loss. Afraid he couldn’t make it back to LaGuardia airport or across the river to Teterboro, Sullenberger landed the plane headed to Charlotte, with 155 souls on board, in the freezing cold river. The NTSB claimed the left engine was still operational, taking both pilots to task at a hearing despite the media hailing the event as a miracle and Sully as a hero. “I had to rely on experience,” Sullenberger testified. “There wasn’t time to calculate. I knew what the A320 could and could not do”.
If “Sully” is recognized during awards season it will be a nomination for best actor.
Despite always being on his own in dire survival situations, Hanks disappears behind that white hair and mustache in one of his better performances in the last few years. His performance earlier this year in A Hologram for the King is still the better performance and overall a more unique film, but didn’t have the profile this film will. If “Sully” is recognized during awards season it will be a nomination for best actor. The film will be slow and disjointed for some. Eastwood makes you wait 30 minutes before we even get to the climactic event. Even then, it’s only part of the accident, the rescue and what occurred in the cockpit happens later in the film. It’s called “Sully” and not Miracle on the Hudson for a specific reason.
Eastwood film alum Laura Linney (“Mystic River”) plays Lorraine Sullenberger, but doesn’t have a single on camera scene with Hanks. This is also typical of Hank’s female co-stars. Intertwined within the narrative, flashbacks of Sully as a teen and then during his time in the Air Force. A considerable effort is made to turn a 208 second event into a feature film. The post-traumatic stress and nightmares Sully experiences after the crash provide opportunities to explore the lead character. The musical score is kept quiet and almost nonexistence, the special effects realistic. Eastwood keeps the focus on the man, not the event. There are moments where the screenplay feels desperate and plodding, others where you understand what it might have felt like on that plane and how one man is likely the reason for their survival.
Eastwood doesn’t make this an event film, it’s procedural, keeping the focus on the hero and star.