Sully is the Captain Now
Reviewed by Mason Manuel
A great film is normally so because it is greater as a sum of its parts rather than relying on one novel idea. The same could be said of the famed incident dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson.” For those unfamiliar, on January 15th, 2009, a commercial airliner lost both engines and was forced to make a controlled descent into the Hudson River. The captain of the plane, Chesley Sullenberger (A.K.A. Sully) masterfully landed in the extreme conditions and managed to do so without losing a single passenger. But none of that would have been possible had it not been for his capable co-pilot, the coast guard, multiple ferrymen, and brave passengers that helped follow and execute emergency procedures. Sully may focus on the titular captain but rather than become a melodramatic biopic the film works hard to give credit to all whom it is due and become something more.
Tom Hanks (Apollo 13, Cast Away) is right at home as the gruff and aging pilot who has seen more than forty years up in the sky. He plays a man that is steadfast and confident in his profession who is entirely bewildered by the media circus that follows him in the fallout of the incident. In another actor’s hands Sully’s demeanor and constant insisting that he is not a hero would come off as overindulgent modesty but Hanks makes it work perfectly. Also worth mentioning Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus has Fallen) who, despite being the co-pilot, never finds himself in Sully’s shadow. He brings a more human side to the events that transpired in the cockpit and has great chemistry with his co-star. The always great Anna Gunn and Laura Linney round out a great cast that comes together perfectly as foils to Sully, one dissecting his testimony and questioning the validity of his statements while the other questions how Sully can be so objective in time that puts both his family and his career at risk. They provide more insight into the dynamic character that shows that a hero is just a normal human being doing the right thing at the right time.
Despite all of these great performances, Clint Eastwood is the real star of the show here. Though the film’s initial moments start slow, the build and payoff feel earned and resonate greatly. Though the film deals with the incident that occurred, the view is more focused on the fallout of the event more than the forced landing itself. Director Eastwood holds a mirror up to society and how much we love to build heroes up just so that we can viciously rip them down later. Though Captain Sully’s actions were admirable, the media and aviation committees waste no time in trying to find something wrong with his choices. Though Sully survived the Hudson landing in nearly below zero temperatures, his real danger comes from the spotlight cast upon him after the event. The initial slow story pacing is deliberate in showing the crash as the easy part only to speed up when Sully is thrown in front of committee after committee. Seeing his actions be dissected by inspections is hard to watch, especially when we are given a first person look into the crash. Eastwood masterfully cuts into the meat of heroism today and shows how skepticism constantly tries to overshadow good deeds.
Sully works great because its culmination of parts works together seamlessly. A proven cast meshed with a similarly proven director comes together to make a wonderful piece of storytelling based on one of the most extraordinary events to occur in recent memory. Easily being the best film for both Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood in some time shows that these two old timers have plenty more to offer in the ways of fantastic films. RDR gives it a 9.3 out of 10.