Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 96 Minutes
UK Release Date: December 2nd 2016
BBFC Certificate: 12A
Clint Eastwood has always had the disposition as the outsider, the outlaw who doesn’t play by the rules and the one who would fight for the people against those in authority, especially if that power is abused.
He continues this theme within his current directorial effort, Sully, which tells the remarkable true story of how an airline pilot managed to safely land a commercial airplane in the Hudson River in 2009, saving all 115 aboard and becoming a hero.
I remember hearing about this on the news and as this film points out, it was a miracle, especially in a post 9/11 world.
The film plays around with its narrative and the actual incident is told via a flashback. Even though I knew there were no fatalities, the depiction of the landing is tense and exhilarating, all thanks to the viewpoints of the multiple characters involved and how Eastwood depicts them at the point of crisis.
Besides seeing pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (played by numbers by the ever charming Tom Hanks) and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart and his wonderful moustache), we cut between air traffic controllers, river rescue crews and the passengers. It is all blended perfectly and has a real sense of team spirit, where no-one is depicted as a singular hero.
The film also deals with the aftermath and I initially thought the main body of the movie would be a reflection on how news and media like to honour a public heroic figure, before tearing them down when they don’t appear to be all that the media have painted them to be. Just see what happened with Charles Ramsey.
Although this movie touches on the above, it’s more about the subsequent investigation and hearing by the National Transportation Safety Board, whose investigators are trying to find fault with the Captain in order to appease the airline, union and insurance company. Without going into too much detail, the board centre on computer simulations of the incident, which would have landed the plane at the departing airport, and not focus on the human elements of Sully’s initial reactions and his 40 years of flying experience, which saved the lives of all on board. This theme of power vs the people is apparent, but not all-encompassing.
The movie’s core is about Sully and the landing, and as such it doesn’t develop into a great courtroom drama. One of the movie’s faults is that the investigators come across as one dimensional characters with no real direct power, especially when they are up against Tom Hanks. As expected Hanks plays the role well but doesn’t seem too challenged by it. Don’t get me wrong, he is one of this generation’s finest actors and he plays Sully with a level of honour, courage and dedication to his job and the safety of his passengers. Although the trauma of the event is apparent, it never overwhelms the character.
But all in all, this is a well-made and directed drama which maintains pace throughout, but it’s sudden and cheesy ending lets it down before the obligatory ‘real life’ event and aftermath footage is shown over the credits, a la Eastwood’s last film, American Sniper (2014).
Sure this film will make money and it’s a good portrait of a modern American hero, who, unlike American Sniper’s Chris Kyle, is glamorised for saving lives. Thankfully Sully isn’t full on ‘USA! USA!’ and is more harmonized towards the everyday man, who does what they can in times of crisis. This is something that will appeal to audiences worldwide and to be fair, we all need a bit of positivity these days.
Eastwood has a thing for sullied heroes (pun intended) and his last two movies have been the dark and troubled American Sniper, and the light and optimistic Sully. I would like to see him use his undoubtable skill at directing to tell a dark story about a powerful governmental or corporate entity against the people, which is a theme merely hinted at in this movie and would be attuned to today’s zeitgeist. And of course I still eagerly await the day when Hanks finally plays a villain.
Overall Verdict: A solidly good drama with great performances all round and a great visual representation of what could have been a disaster. To sum it up. this is the most optimistic disaster movie I have seen.
Reviewer: George Elcombe