Dan's Review: "Sully" emerges untarnished
Aaron Eckhart and Tom Hanks in Sully - © 2016 Warner Bros.
Sully (Warner Bros.)
Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.
Starring Tom Hanks as Chesley, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Mike O'Malley, Jamey Sheridan, Jerry Ferrara, Molly Hagan, Max Adler, Sam Huntington, Wayne Bastrup, Valerie Mahaffey, Jeff Kober, Katie Couric, Captain Vince Lombardi.
Written by Todd Komarnicki, based on “Highest Duty” by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Hero worship is often a slippery slope, ending in disillusionment. Too many times, the folks we prop up as protagonists turn out to be human, after all, quickly transporting us from our happy places to disenchanting slums of disgust. It’s a rare treat when a real-life hero weathers the torrents of second-guessing, pessimism and ridicule to emerge unscathed. One such person is Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the U.S. Airways pilot who successfully ditched and Airbus A320 into the Hudson River after the plane hit a flock of geese in January 2009. His story is the subject of Clint Eastwood’s Sully.
Tom Hanks plays the title character, supported by Aaron Eckhart, who plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles. The film unfolds in a series of flashbacks of the incident in which the plane loses both engines after striking the birds and the pilots maneuver the aircraft until their only option is to try a water landing. Spoiler alert: All 155 people on board U.S. Airways Flight 1549 survive, as Sully and his crew are hailed as heroes.
Not so fast. There has to be a little more conflict than a few irksome geese in a Hollywood movie, so screenwriter Todd Komarnicki embellished a few nasty NTSB investigators (Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn and Jamey Sheridan) to antagonize Sully and paint him as an errant pilot. The investigation becomes the point of conflict, not the incident itself, as Sully, his wife (Laura Linney) and the survivors support the hero in the face of all that misplaced suspicion. The meany investigators insist that Sully could have landed plane at not one, but two nearby airports instead of making the water landing, leaving our hero’s future and credibility in doubt, and killing the buzz of a true feel-good experience. The foul nature of the investigation leads to a climactic scene in which Sully reminds those wicked bureaucrats about the human element of any pending catastrophe.
Manufactured conflict aside (the real NTSB investigators are not pleased with their demonization in the movie), Sully is a very good film that depicts a true act of heroism and courage in the face of incredible odds. Tom Hanks once again transforms himself into the everyman hero we’ve all come to enjoy on screen, perfectly portraying the humble, reluctant victor. Clint Eastwood’s cinematic craftsmanship seems perfect for a movie that spends most of its time in the minutiae of governmental oversight, while drawing out some very tender emotions regarding the worth of souls and the delicate balance between doom and triumph.
Captain Sullenberger and his crew really did pull off an unprecedented miracle that freezing January afternoon, and Sully doesn’t do anything to tarnish that reality.