SULLY (USA/12A/96mins)
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Valerie Mahaffey, Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn
THE PLOT: Pilot Chelsey ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) makes an emergency landing on the Hudson Rover in New York after US Airways Flight 1549 suffers a catastrophic engine failure after a bird strike. Sully is praised as a hero by the public, but behind closed doors, an investigation implies that Sully made the wrong call in making an emergency landing in water, and Sully begins to struggle under the strain.
THE VERDICT: ‘Sully’ is based on a true story, and one that is still very fresh in the collective memories of the public. There is a lot more to the story than what was reported at the time of Sullenberger’s quick thinking, and Clint Eastwood’s film tries to tell the story in an unshowy and engaging way.
It should come as no surprise that Tom Hanks is the life and soul of ‘Sully’, and his understated and engaging performance carries the emotion and heart of the film. Hanks makes the character humble and sweet, but infuses Sullenberger with a layer of strength and determination, as well as a feeling of dignity that makes the audience root for him. Hanks is backed up by Aaron Eckhart as co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and while Eckhart allows Hanks to take the lead, he is also strong in his role, and supports Hanks incredibly well. The rest of the cast features Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley and Valerie Mahaffey.
Todd Komarnicki’s screenplay is based on Chelsey Sullenberger’s book “Highest Duty”, and tells the story of the crash on the Hudson through Sullenberger’s eyes. The screenplay is cleverly woven together, and does not follow the story thread that the audience might suspect; ‘Sully’ starts in the middle of the tale, and tells the story of the emergency landing only when it is needed and makes sense in terms of the story.
As director Clint Eastwood makes sure that the film is understated but engaging; there is nothing overly sweet or saccharine about the film, as it tries to tell Sully’s story in a realistic and subtle way. Eastwood gets strong performances from the cast, and is economical in telling the story; Eastwood keeps the story as brief as it needs to be, and doesn’t over dramatise the events and reactions in the film.
In all, ‘Sully’ is an economical and understated tale of bravery, while never trying to over dramatise the story or go over the top. Eastwood is strong as director, and makes Hanks the emotional heart and soul of the film. Things simply get a little drawn out toward the end of the film, which was always going to be problematic, but ends up feeling a little anti-climactic.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    He may be 86, but Clint Eastwood shows no signs of slowing down. The legendary actor / director has delivered one of his most hopeful and perceptive films in years with Sully: Miracle On The Hudson. It’s based on the real events that occurred in New York on 15th January 2009, as well as what followed after.

    Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his trusty co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) get ready to take off from La Guardia Airport en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. On board are 155 passengers and crew. Shortly after take-off the plane is hit by a flock of birds, damaging both engines at 2,800 feet. They don’t respond and with the plane losing altitude fast, Sully must think quickly about his actions. Should he make a run for the nearest runway… or make a forced water landing in the Hudson River. He opts for the latter and successfully lands the plane without a single casualty. That’s only the beginning. What follows is a rigorous investigation into the actions that Sully took in those 208 seconds by the National Transportation Safety Board. Did he endanger the passenger and crew lives, particularly when computer simulations show that he could have made it safely to a runway?

    Based on Sullenberger’s own book Highest Duty, Sully: Miracle On The Hudson is a small miracle of a film. This could easily have been an all-American hero type of story or worse – a TV movie of the week in lesser hands. However, Eastwood is careful to avoid this and instead deliver a portrait of an ordinary man who made a critical decision that saved lives. The structure of the film is quite interesting. The film starts with Sully awaking from a nightmare and attending an initial hearing into what actions he took. We spend some time getting to know him after the fact, as he talks to his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney).

    Then the story flashes back to events on the plane from different perspectives – passengers, crew, an air traffic controller, witnesses, rescue personnel and the media. Then at a critical point later on, the story moves back again to look at his actions in forensic detail. This clinical attention to detail, made with the full support of Sullenberger, is what sets this film apart. Moving back and forth allows some doubt to creep in about Sully’s actions. Is he a hero or just lucky? It also highlights the quiet resolve of the man himself.

    Eastwood has often been interested in heroes – how they’re formed and how they react to those surrounding them. Hanks is pitch perfect here, modestly playing down the hero aspect and playing up the fact that he wasn’t the only one – it was a team effort from everyone involved to save everyone on board. But he also gets in under the skin of Sully, a man with 42 years of flying experience at the time of the forced water landing. It’s the kind of under-stated but powerful performance that is deserving of an Oscar. There’s so much to admire here, but it’s best to let the film and its unassuming hero do the talking. Sully: Miracle On The Hudson soars and comes highly recommended. ****

  • Clive Bower

    Tom Hanks and cast make a great job of this well known story – the film from start to finish is very strong , for me it is not one of Clints best films but his quality is so high it is probably a unfair remark. Well worth a trip to the cinema on these dark nights

  • emerb

    On a freezing cold January day in 2009, an amazing incident occurred on the Hudson River when Captain Chesley Sullenberger landed a US Airways jet on the water. The image of that landing remains one of the indelible images of the 21st century and with his latest film, Clint Eastwood has directed a solid and compelling dramatization of that miraculous event. “Sully”, which is the portrait
    of a true hero, played by Tom Hanks is a remarkable story and this movie does not disappoint. The decision made by this man saved 155 lives but yet questions were asked and his heroism was called into question by the authorities. The movie follows Sullenberger as he grapples with the media attention, suffers from post-traumatic nightmares and a hearing in which pilots watch the incident recreated over and over in simulators, critiquing each.

    The story largely focusses on the aftermath of the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson”, specifically the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. However, it begins with the immediate aftermath of Flight 1549 as it rapidly sinks in the skies above New York City and eventually lands on the Hudson, with 155 people on board. A freak encounter with a large flock of birds has caused both engines of an A320 to burst into flames and then die out. Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) quickly decided there was not enough power to make it back to La Guardia or another airport and an emergency crash water landing was the only option. As we know, following a huge rescue effort,
    all passengers and crew survived. Within 24 hours, Sully became one of the most famous pilots in the world. The film jumps back and forth between the incident and the present day where his actions are questioned by inquisitors from the National Transportation Safety Board. They believe that he panicked and acted impulsively, probing him about his personal life, his drinking and his skill. Their flight simulations indicate he could have gone back in time to make a safe landing and that his decision to land on water was reckless. This leaves Sully wracked by second thoughts and nightmare visions, imagining what might have occurred if he and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), decided to try to make it back to where they took off. He is besieged by the media, politicians and fans and all the while his stressed wife (Laura Linney) tries to comfort him from back home.

    Hanks delivers yet another memorable, nomination-worthy performance here and it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role. He is the perfect actor to play Sullenberger and his turn here reminded me of his superb performance in “Captain Phillips”. Made up to look much older, he confidently carries the film. Sully is as an honourable man of good judgment who is nonetheless made to question the actions he prudently made under conditions of extreme stress.. On the surface, Sully may be a responsible, calm, reserved, no-nonsense skilled pilot with 42 years of experience who has suddenly become a reluctant national hero but privately he is tormented by visions of the plane smashing into Manhattan and his nightmares are compounded by news reporters and the authorities questioning his judgement. The secondary characters are rather one-dimensional, but Aaron Eckhart’s less experienced co-pilot doesn’t disappoint and Laura Linney is credible as the tormented and concerned wife, although her role is confined to long-distance phone calls.

    “Sully” is a fascinating thriller and one which will have you pinned you to the edge of your seat with many high tension scenes of the flight and rescue. We all know the outcome but that certainly didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story in any way. The editing, special effects and performances are top class. The sequences where the iconic landing and rescue are recreated are spectacular and riveting to watch. The tension ebbs and flows as the story shifts back in forth
    between the past and the present and between Sully’s dreams and reality. Thankfully there is no tragedy in “Sully”, just relief, the study of a remarkably brave man who feels uncomfortable in the spotlight and has difficulty being referred to as a hero. 15 years after 9/11, it’s impossible not to recall those horrific and poignant events, especially at the start of the film when the camera follows New Yorkers on the streets watching a plane coming down so perilously. This isn’t ignored and an observation is made late in the film by one of Sully’s colleagues. Clint Eastwood’s 35th feature as a director, at 96 minutes, is the shortest of his films, but in my opinion, it is one of his best. There is not a deep and complex plot here. It is just one central incident that is examined from multiple perspectives but in many ways it is one of the most uplifting true stories
    of recent years. I enjoyed reliving every minute of this remarkable story about heroism and people working in harmony under exceptional circumstances.