Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sully: Movie Review

A hero to believe in.

While Sully is the story of a hero, the lesser-known story behind it casts doubt. The movie opens with an impressive and dramatic plane crash – not a real plane crash but the product of his nightmares. He’s a man hounded by the media, separated from his family, and the subject of a contentious National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing. It’s that latter part that didn’t make the media cycle (they don’t like anything that might take away national hero status) and the part that this movie focuses on.   2016

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by: Todd Komarnicki
Based on "Highest Duty" by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart

The background is the story that everybody knows. Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a passenger plane on the Hudson River after birds hit both engines. Everybody survived; therefore, he’s a hero. That’s what everybody knows so the film spends very little time establishing what we already know. It starts with his nightmares; fears of fiery plane crashes, continues with NTSB officials suggesting that maybe he or the co-pilot was drunk, and then apparently uncovering data which confirms one of the engines wasn’t destroyed and he could have easily made it back to an airport. Computer simulations confirmed this.

And this brings us to Tom Hanks. I normally don’t like celebrating heroes just because and if that’s all this story was, I would have been turned off faster than “30 Rock’s” Matt Damon - a pilot who never understood the Sully fuss. In his words, “He’s not that great. You know what a great pilot would have done? Not hit the birds. That’s what I do every day, not hit birds. Where’s my ticket to the Grammys?” But this version of Sully doesn’t think he’s great. He’s just a guy doing his job. And he deserves our sympathy because he doesn’t deserve the torture that the NTSB is putting him through, or what he’s doing to himself.

The second star of the movie is the plane’s landing. It was cleverly edited throughout the film and from the different points of view – from the control tower who thinks he just lost a plane full of people, the passengers and flight attendants, to personnel on the sidelines watching a plane crash into the Hudson, and finally to Sully and his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart).

Eckhart is great in this. His character had a difficult job – he’s been put through the same scrutiny as Sully, the same doubts that they’re trying to force him to go through, but he believed in Sully, but more importantly he’s going to stand by his side. And that’s ultimately what this story comes down to – humanity. This film was full of great human moments – all of the New York emergency officials coming to the rescue of the passengers, and Sully refusing to give in to the nightmares.

Sully is a well-made film with a swift run-time, starting with the part of the story that we didn’t get to know, and incorporating everything we did know and everything we want to believe in.

Similar Titles:

Bridge of Spies (2015) - A masterful production of Cold War tensions with humour and heart.

Flight (2012) - Character study boldly blurring the lines of life, happiness and right and wrong.

Captain Phillips (2013) - Walks the obvious Hollywood line but Hanks keeps us hanging in every moment.