Sully: Miracle on The Hudson (2016)
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
I know this film is over a year old, but it is brand new to Sky Movies so in my mind, it’s new. The cinema is so damn expensive these days!
I remember at the time of release it was a film I definitely wanted to watch, I just never got round to it for one reason or another. So, here I am getting round to it.
If I’m honest, I’m not a massive fan of Clint Eastwood as a Director/Producer. I’ve seen pretty much all of his films in this capacity and I always feel there are gaps, or I’m feeling a little underwhelmed by the end. Unfortunately this film is no different.
The story follows Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), who has to make a split-second choice about how to safely bring his aircraft down when his plane suffers catastrophic damage over New York. His choice saves everyone on board, but his superiors question whether it was the right one. If you are after a film detailing every inch of a thrilling scary plane crash, you’ll be mildly disappointed. The film focuses much more on the aftermath of the crash, and the investigations and interrogations both Sully and his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) had to endure. We are given just one look at the crash from start to finish, with a few snippets thrown in just to carry the narrative through to the end.
The one thing you can always count on is a larger than life performance from Tom Hanks. He’s playing Sully, a man who has no desire to be famous and just wants to do his job. An unexpected hero if you like. Hanks plays his journey beautifully, his words saying little but his face conveying the struggle of someone who believes he did the right thing, but wonders if he didn’t and isn’t worth this adoration. For me, he is one of the few actors that always convinces me this actually happened to him. He is so committed in this film both aesthetically and emotionally, but isn’t he in every film he does?
Once Sully is obviously hailed a hero, the narrative then goes a little flat. It doesn’t present much tension — everyone survived, so how can any outcome make Sully the bad guy? Eastwood then tries (not so subtley) to amp up the drama with safety investigators manipulating facts to discredit him and the media making his life unbearable by trying to celebrate him. While this investigation actually happened, it doesn’t convince the audience that he would immediately be treated with this level of suspicion. But, this is a movie after all!
With nowhere obvious for the story to go, Eastwood keeps flicking back to recreating the events that took place on The Hudson, which are so well put together they may induce motion-sickness. In fact, these few minutes between engine failure and crash hold the entirety of Sully’s story. He’s an ordinary pilot who was for a short period, extraordinary. That leaves much of the film grounded, but it still has a much better than ordinary performance from Hanks to lift it. Aaron Eckhart too should be noted as a talent in this film. His character firmly stands by Sully with such conviction and respect – it’s very believable. Not sure the tash works for me though! Laura Linney’s role I felt was weird and pointless – perhaps it was there to offer another level to the story. Sully’s family would obviously be worried, and Eastwood clearly felt this needed to be documented too. It didn’t offer anything for me.
The film may be a bit lukewarm, but if it does anything, it sheds light on the extraordinary events that took place that day and how truly lucky both the passengers and crew are to be alive. If you remember it broadcasting on the news like me, the first obvious thought would have triggered the sad memories from 9/11. It is however, completely the opposite. Sully is a very likeable character, carrying out his duties in a very calm and dignified manner. You will feel very sad he had to therefore endure such grief in the aftermath. It is very obvious from this film; he is a true, real life hero.
Three stars for me!