On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. Despite the accolades, the famed pilot now faces an investigation that threatens to destroy his career and reputation.
Everybody kind of already knows the story, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger had to make an emergency landing one day in early 2009, saving 155 people after the plane he was piloting struck a flock of geese. But what you may not know are the events that led up to this or about all the people involved. Who better to tell the story than director Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks? I was not a fan of Eastwood’s last film “American Sniper” but this one looks more promising.
It easy to notice that Hanks who plays Sully doesn’t quite look like the real Sully, other than the grey hair, but it is easy to look past this. Instead of approaching the storytelling in a straightforward way which may not have been the most exciting, it tells the story through flashbacks since the film starts with Sully after the plane landing, looking back at how he got to where he was. This allowed the focus to be more on Sully himself. This is not a biographical film of Sully, however, as it doesn’t give his life’s story and focuses on the plane landing incident.
Sully was a normal man facing extraordinary circumstances. To him he was just doing his job. He was using his instincts, guided by his years and years of experience in the hopes of saving the 155 people aboard. Everyone thinks he’s a hero but he doesn’t seem himself that way. Once his decisions are put into question, he begins to question himself and wonder whether or not he did the right thing. This inner struggle of his was compelling to watch because Sully was so likable.
The bulk of the story was told through various flashbacks that were triggered throughout the film as Sully was looking back at the events leading up to the plane landing. These were great to watch as they made us feel like we were part of the action, giving us more of an insight in Sully’s mind. We also had a glimpse of his personal life which included his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney). It was evident that they cared for one another but the film didn’t go too far with their relationship. Sully’s other relationship was with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). Skiles was more of a comic relief, bringing some levity to the film. His chemistry with Sully made their scenes enjoyable to watch.
The other big part of the film were scenes where Sully and Skiles were part of a NTSB investigation into the plane landing. They did not see the two as heroes as they questioned their motives. It was an interesting contrast between what they thought should have happened and what actually happened. Seeing that this was based on a true story, we ultimately know how it all ended up but that didn’t take away from it.
This was not an overly long film, clocking in at 95 minutes. There’s only so much story it can tell. There were a few occasions where it tried to tell more story than was probably not needed which did not work as well but this did not affect the film too negatively. Due to the short length, this allows the film to tell the story it wanted to tell. The film never really went too far or overdid anything which helped with its pacing.
The actual plane landing sequence, despite a few technical hiccups, was well done. Of course, not everything can be real so some CGI was used but unfortunately, it was painfully obvious at times. IMAX just magnified this even more but where it may have hurt the visuals, it definitely helped the sound effects. The best example of this has to be the plane landing sequence itself as the sound made it feel very immersive.
The acting was amazing which did not come as much of a surprise. Tom Hanks was in it after all and he was excellent here too. Hanks showed a considerable amount of restraint in his performance. Sully is more of a low-key person and Hanks continued along those lines. There’s just something about Hanks and how he’s able to effortlessly play the everyman and he does it again here. Hanks brings so much charm and charisma to every role he plays, making them extremely likeable and this was the same once again. He made Sully compelling to watch as he elevated every scene with his presence alone. Eckhart was also good here as Skiles, having good chemistry with Hanks. Linney was good here too despite having very little to do.
Overall, this was a fantastic story with fantastic performances, elevated by a strong script, and some tremendous special effects.