Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Mike O’Malley, Laura Linney, and Chris Bauer
The summer saw its fair amount of superheroes. Viewers watched extraordinary mutants fighting an ancient enemy in “X-Men: Apocalypse”, they were introduced to a group bad guys with amazing skills fighting a threat to the world in “Suicide Squad”, and they even saw the return of super agent Jason Bourne again performing acts that would get any normal human serious injured. Arriving in theaters this weekend is another story about a hero, however this hero doesn’t have superhuman abilities or extraordinary powers though he can fly.
U.S. Airways Flight 1549 departed New York’s LaGuardia Airport on the afternoon of January 15, 2009 with 150 passengers. About 3 minutes after takeoff the plane struck a formation of birds. The plane lost thrust in both engines and was too far away from the departing airport to turn around. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey B. Skiles were forced to land the plane in the Hudson River. Miraculously the crew accomplished this impossible feat without the loss of one human life.
“Sully” is a compelling real life story about people being forced into acts of heroism and then having to deal with the repercussions of their actions. Director Clint Eastwood has been directing films since 1971, many times also acting in his films. "Sully" is not particularly new territory for the 86 year old filmmaker who has tackled many of the same character themes in films like “American Sniper”, “Flags of the Father”, and “Unforgiven”. Mr. Eastwood is a talented director and “Sully” is accommodated because of his skill.
The narrative is working with an event that only lasted 208 seconds. Mr. Eastwood tells this story in a purposeful and disjointed fashion, emulating how the event was scrutinized and pieced together during the National Transportation Safety Board hearings that followed the incident. Mr. Eastwood does a fantastic job of composing the emotions of Mr. Sullenberger, displaying how the pilot recreated the events in his mind sometimes with a deadlier outcome. It is often a frightening and tense experience; the fear induced when the pilot of the plane says “brace for impact” over the intercom is just the beginning. Mr. Eastwood does more than just recreate the events of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, the director taps into the anxiety still lingering in the wake of September 11th but also the solidarity of the people who came together during this time of need. 150 passengers and 5 flight crew members survived a plane crash, stood in freezing cold weather and water, and all of them lived to tell the story.
In the heroic roles are Tom Hanks as Mr. Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as Mr. Skiles. Mr. Hanks plays the role with quiet, calm, professional dignity. Mr. Hanks shines as this kind of earnest hero; no flash or flamboyance needed just a connection to a character that was simply doing his job. Mr. Eckhart is also good as the supportive, straight-shooting partner and friend of Sully, offering a performance that never waivers from the position of supportive friendship.
“Sully” has some difficulty maintaining the drama of the event as the film recounts the situation a few times over. It also introduces the perspectives of the passengers a little too late to truly generate the kind of connection to the fear and panic felt in the early scenes of the plane charging into the water. Still, in the capable hands of Clint Eastwood, “Sully” displays the miracle of ordinary people doing their jobs with the absolute highest possible efficiency. After a summer of watching superhuman comic book heroes save the world, it’s a nice reminder that superheroes do exist and they don’t need to shot lasers from their eyes or leap buildings but could simply do the diligent work they do on a daily basis.
3.50 out of 5.00