Thursday, September 08, 2016

“Sully”– Movie Review


This week, I attended a screening by The New York Times Film Club of the new biographical drama “Sully”, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood.


When a veteran airline pilot saves the lives of his passengers by landing his disabled plane on The Hudson River, will he be able to rescue his reputation when investigators believe he used poor judgment?


On the afternoon of January 15, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) courageously and safely landed a severely impaired commercial jet airliner atop New York City’s Hudson River; the lives of all 155 people on board were spared.  When both of the plane’s engines were damaged after a flock of Canadian geese were sucked into them, he determined that the jet would not be able to get to an airport in time.  As a result, his decades of experience as a pilot informed his decision to bring the airplane down on the water, thus avoiding crashing into a building, bridge or highway. 

While much of the country reasonably lauded Sully as a hero, there were some who had their suspicions about him – namely the airline’s insurance company who were charged with investigating the incident.  Based on their engineers’ analysis and running computerized simulations, it is determined that Sully made the wrong decision to land in the water because he could have easily made it to a nearby airport.  Sully, of course, disagrees with their findings, in large part due to the fact that much of it is based on merely theoretical knowledge.  

Before Sully can be permitted to return to his job, he has to attend a hearing held by The National Transportation Safety Board where they will question him about his thought process and his choices.  Having spent 42 years as a pilot and as someone whom the industry has regarded as something of an expert on safety practices and procedures, Sully is understandably outraged at having to undergo such scrutiny.  Because of this, he is now also beginning to question himself as well and becomes anxious about his standing being ruined.  Will Sully be forced to resign in disgrace or will he be vindicated?


Perhaps the greatest challenge when it comes to making a movie about a well-known event from the recent past is holding the suspense of the audience when people already know the outcome.  In “Sully”, director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki manage to do so with great aplomb and admirable craftsmanship, resulting in a film that’s worth seeing not only for its entertainment value but also for the scintillating performance of its star, Tom Hanks.  “Sully” is filmmaking at its very best, with a hero worth rooting for in the ultimate feel-good story. 

Although the movie depicts The Miracle On The Hudson multiple times, it’s not really about that so much as its aftermath.  Despite having saved the life of all passengers and crew, Sullenberger is shown haunted by the thought of potential alternative outcomes as well as being plagued with self-doubt regarding his choice. This proves to be a clever way to approach the story because it pulls back the curtain to show that not only did Sullenberger not enjoy his new-found fame, it troubled him because all of the attention now put his career under a microscope.  As a result, “Sully” is about how a man redeems his good name. 

At only an hour and a half, “Sully” is deceptively short; by the end of the movie, you would think it had been at least two hours because of the emotional roller coaster viewers have been on up to that point.  For one thing, having to watch the landing on the water multiple times – including the anxiety in the cockpit which led up to it – really takes something of a toll.  By the end, the audience can’t be blamed for feeling overwrought.  Unlike with Eastwood’s “American Sniper”, one can feel comfortable rooting for the protagonist in “Sully” – this is a man who is a hero because he saved lives rather than one who took lives. 

Sully (2016) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!