Sully – Movie Review

The true story of Chesley Sullenberger and the miracle on the Hudson was always going to be adapted for the big screen, so who better to tackle this all too American story than the directing-acting dream team of Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks, in the simply titled Sully.

So, is it any good?


Although the events that took place in the skies of Manhattan and the shores of the Hudson river on January 15, 2009 seem like perfect material for a big screen adaptation, the big question I had coming into the film was how the filmmakers would stretch out a 208 second event in a feature length film? Well for starters, they tell the story in a non-linear fashion, sprinkling the crash economically throughout the running time, slowly ratcheting up the tension while maintaining the audience’s interest. Of course we all know how this ends, but its the little details in between which Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki are interested in. The people Sully comes into contact with in the hours before the crash, the casual conversation he and pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) share before takeoff, and the hotel room meetings conducted by Air Crash Investigators in the days that followed the life changing events, where the pilot’s actions come into question.usp-fp-0078rThe shadow of September Eleven looms large over Sully, as it did when the miraculous landing first took place. Its impossible to see an image of a passenger plane looming over the New York skyline and not immediately think of that dark day, and Eastwood has used this parallel to great effect. Some of the films most striking images are of onlookers in office buildings who don’t say a single word, but you can see on their faces the same fear many New Yorkers would have felt that day…”Here we go again”. This added context allows Eastwood to draw powerful parallels, so in stark contrast to a perfect summer’s day, we are given a bitterly cold Winter; where before there was disaster, here we see a group of individuals pulling together to overcome the odds; and in place of pessimism, the films message is one of optimism.

“The real reason to see this film is for the plane sequences, which are technically flawless and painstakingly accurate”

If things get a little patriotic along the way, you can hardly hold that against the veteran director, he’s basically an all American hero at this point. As is Hanks, who by this point can do these kind of performances in his sleep, which isn’t to say he reigns it in. This is yet another example of the actor completely convincing as an every man, a guy who exudes integrity yet seeks no accolades. There’s shades of the PTSD ridden Captain Richard Philips here, but for the most part Hanks dials back his performance, burying Sully’s inner turmoil and self doubt deep down, so it never fully bubbles to the surface. Aaron Eckhart provides solid support and much needed humour in a role that could’ve easily been overshadowed. Sadly the same cannot be said for Laura Linney who plays Sully’s wife Lorraine, and is relegated to not just doting wife, but doting wife on the phone.

usp-fp-0102rThe real reason to see this film is for the plane sequences, which are technically flawless and painstakingly accurate. There are times when you’ll forget you’re watching a movie altogether, as the crash is played out from every possible angle and character viewpoint. A large percentage of these sequences were shot with IMAX cameras, so if you have the means, I highly recommend seeing the film in this format.usp-05865rv2There are a few dud lines of dialogue, and the piano driven score is a little too ‘Daytime TV’ at times, but overall Sully is a gripping cinema experience that, much like the real life events it depicts, gives audiences something refreshingly positive to celebrate in this cynical age we live in.

Sully is in Australian cinemas from tomorrow