Sully: Miracle on the Hudson - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
CLINT Eastwood has long been a fan of making films that probe the nature of heroism.
Sully, his latest, follows in the flight path of American Sniper and Flags of our Fathers in examining a landmark moment in American history and uncovering the human toll it took on the perpetrator of it.
On January 15, 2009, Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger took off from New York’s Laguardia Airport on a routine flight with 155 souls on board. Moments later, his engines were knocked out by a flock of birds, sending the plane into free fall. In the ensuing seconds and minutes, Sully decided to try and land the plane on the Hudson River.
The successful landing without a single fatality (and only minor injuries) was immediately hailed as a miracle, with Sully held up as a hero. His actions were all the more heralded owing to the incident’s proximity to 9/11.
But in the days and weeks after the landing, Sully was subjected to an intense investigation by the aviation authorities, who questioned whether his decision to attempt a water landing was legitimate, especially as computer simulations suggested he could have nursed the plane successfully back to one of two airports.
Had he, therefore, needlessly endangered the lives of all on board? Perhaps more pertinently, did the plane have to be lost? Sully, for his part, came to question his own decision-making at a time when his fame was rocketing and everyone wanted a piece of him, whether to congratulate or test him.
Tom Hanks plays Sully in a role that echoes the type of performance he gave in Captain Phillips – another film which examined, to a lesser degree, the cost of heroism. Here, though, he imbues Sully with a calmness under pressure and a nobility that is slowly eroded by the pressures of fame and its subsequent media scrutiny. Unflappable at first, he comes to wear the look of a haunted, even tormented man, whose integrity is unfairly put through the wringer.
Hanks is superb, as is Aaron Eckhart, as his consistently loyal co-pilot, and Mike O’Malley, as one of the more bullish members of the investigating team.
Eastwood, meanwhile, directs the ensuing drama with a lean efficiency, managing to grip emotionally while also ensuring that the film is unexpectedly tense in its various depictions of the landing itself and whether Sully will be cleared of ‘wrong-doing’.
The filmmaker stages the landing from several points of view, yet faithfully recreates the bravery, the ingenuity and the fear that must have enveloped the situation. You’ll probably think twice about boarding a plane in its immediate aftermath, while secretly praying for a pilot as competent as Sully when you do.
And while Eastwood does succeed in highlighting the ludicrousness of the corporate and media scrutiny that followed, often enraging the viewer, his film does eventually stand as a glowing tribute to a hero and an uplifting, even life-affirming celebration of the human spirit.
Sully rates among Eastwood’s best movies as a director, while marking another personal acting triumph for Hanks.
Running time: 101mins
UK Release Date: December 3, 2016