Movie Review: Sully
PG-13 | 1h 35min
Director: Clint Eastwood
by Jason Koenigsberg
“Waaah, waaaah, waaah! I don’t want to be a hero! Waaaaah!” is the basic gist of Tom Hanks performance in Clint Eastwood’s Sully, a movie about the pilot who made a miraculous water landing in the Hudson River and saved 155 lives. Ok, the crying is a slight exaggeration. Hanks is good as always as real life pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and he continues to be one of Hollywood’s most reliable leading men.
The opening shot is a dark profile of Hanks piloting a plane and obviously having trouble talking to the tower. The movie has dark cinematography and intentionally utilizes low key lighting throughout giving it a serious and realistic mood. Like most of Eastwood’s films, he depends on the actors to carry the story. Some of the best acting is when Hanks and his co-pilot played by Aaron Eckhart are portraying two average men being thrust into the spotlight, unprepared for the consequences that fame brings. A special mention should be given to Laura Linney who has been directed by Eastwood previously in Absolute Power (1997) and Mystic River (2003). Her scenes could have easily been throwaways in a thankless role but she makes the most of it and helps add another dimension to Hanks’ Sully as a family man and a real person. There are also just enough decent scenes providing Sully’s background in flight. Any more and they would have felt tedious.
Director Clint Eastwood brings his typical minimalist approach to directing the story of Chesley Sullenberger as a reluctant hero scrutinized for his actions to land a commercial aircraft on water. It really only is a few minutes of intense action and a lot of dialogue. Eastwood does keep the story short and this is the shortest film he has directed in recent memory clocking in at a taut 95 minutes. Yet even with that, it does feel like he is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.
That is one of the problems with Sully, from right away the audience has a strong inclination that the title character made the right decision and his actions were exactly what needed to be done to save the 155 souls on board. A lot of the movie is unconvincing arguments and scenarios that paint a picture of Sully being a bad pilot and acting impulsively but it never firmly sticks and fails to persuade the viewers mind. Therefore the climax is a foregone conclusion long before the movie gets there.
A lot of his scenes show Sully haunted by what could have happened and the film depicts terrifying crashes in and around New York City. At first one might think this was an odd choice to release this movie on the weekend of the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. But then by the time they show the actual rescue of the passengers and crew on the Hudson River it all makes sense. The movie Sully‘s greatest strength is how it shows New Yorkers coming together and going out of their way to help people. That is done so eloquently it almost made me forget the weaknesses of Sully as I just enjoyed seeing the best of New York being illustrated by its citizens on screen. Unfortunately, there is too little substance to this picture to recommend. Eastwood, Hanks and everyone else involved do their best to make the movie feel more important than it actually was.
If you learn anything from Sully, it should be this… never travel with Tom Hanks. Do not go into outer space with him (Apollo 13), do not get on a plane with him (Castaway, Sully), or a boat (Captain Phillips). Even if you land safely at your destination you may get stuck in the airport for years (The Terminal). Pretty much Tom Hanks is the worst person to travel with unless he’s Forrest Gump, then you might meet some presidents, otherwise don’t book a vacation with this guy. Final note, I did really enjoy seeing an ad in the movie for Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (2008), one of his best movies and a very popular one at the time of the incident that was depicted in Sully.
Instead of seeing Sully this weekend, check out the criminally underrated Fearless (1993) starring Jeff Bridges and directed by Peter Weir. The best movie about surviving a traumatic plane crash and one of the best movies about our fears as human beings.