Here is a film that presents a simple question. Does being a hero bring a bigger burden on the subject than the legacy set in motion by his actions?
Sully is an Oscar worthy film. Consider Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks’ collaboration the first heavyweight out of the box as the summer silliness at the theater concludes and the big hitters step up to the box for awards consideration.
Thank you Clint for wrapping this triumphant true story and feel good tale in a tightly wound package of 96 well earned minutes. There isn’t a scene that goes wasted and every dramatic turn isn’t overplayed for the crowd to roll their eyes at. The Academy can go ahead and ship awards to sound effects editor Jason King and film editor Blu Murray.
Eastwood’s greatest tool as a director is restraint and the ability to not overstep even a story like Captain Chesley Sullenberger, who brought a damaged plane carrying 155 passengers to safety right on the Hudson River. The film tackles the 2009 rescue from multiple angles, including the toll it took on the pilot.
When the film was announced, some moviegoers questioned the validity of the need for an adaptation of Sullenberger’s autobiography. Was there enough story to back up the need for a cinematic retelling of an event?
Let me answer that bluntly. Yes. If you can combine the award winning power play team of Eastwood and Hanks with an amazing true story, it’s impossible to pass up. There’s also more juice to the story than some may presume heading in.
Sullenberger battled with his own demons after the event, and it triggered nightmares that will be sure to evoke scary memories of planes crashing through New York City. As the rescue was under investigation, Sully’s life was taken apart and the spotlight blinded the veteran pilot. Here was a guy who landed several hundred planes safely and was being soaked under a hot lamp for a matter of minutes in the air.
It would be a ham job to merely say Hanks gets better with age so let me put it this way. He’s in a league of his own. The Oscar winner slips into the tortured skin of Sullenberger with ease and never makes you feel as if an actor is taking advantage of your attention. It’s a masterful performance that echoes Eastwood’s restrained approach. 99 percent of actor would have overacted the part ruthlessly and squandered the role. Hanks is a careful methodically performer and doesn’t hide a thing without calling attention to himself.
Aaron Eckhart, playing Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles, is very good and represents the first of a solid combination for the actor this fall. After a few years of thankless roles and wasted work, Eckhart has found his groove again and is using real heroic men to get it done. Later this year, he will play Kevin Rooney, the trainer to Miles Teller’s Vinny Pazienza in Ben Younger’s Bleed For This. Here, Eckhart creates a nice rapport with Hanks and the two have an off the cuff candid ease on camera. It’s nice to see actor back in tune.
Laura Linney and Anna Gunn provide solid support as Lorraine Sullenberger and Dr. Elizabeth Davis while Holt McCallany and Mike O’ Malley are great as Mike Cleary and Charles Porter. It’s seasoned vet Brett Clark’s Captain Carl Clark that has the best line of the movie when he talks about having good news about New York and planes.
The true mint of Sully is the plane landing sequences. Eastwood and his visual effects team don’t take away any view or angle of the event and thrust the viewer into the action. It’s as if we are analyzing the event as well as the committee looking into Sully’s quick on the move decision making. The film’s fast pace is aided by a promise to never fester in one scene for too long.
Eastwood directs with a methodical joystick in most of his films, but rightfully lets this story walk the walk. He infuses his classic light piano driven score and doesn’t overpower the scenes or actors.
The result is a feel good drama with strong technical aspects and a light touch when needed. It’s an old fashioned treat that will drift into your mind for days. What makes a hero such? The action itself or the ability to stand your ground after and defend your action. When it comes to the idea of an ordinary man doing an extraordinary thing, you won’t find a better tale than Chesley Sullenberger and the Miracle on the Hudson.
The movie manages to be as good as the story, showing respect to the subjects as well as giving the audience a great ride.
Come Oscar time, you will hear Sully’s name.