Tom Hanks as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Sully (Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros. Pictures)
Director Clint Eastwood brings one of America’s most miraculous true stories to the big screen this weekend. With Sully, Eastwood adapts the amazing landing of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger glided a plane onto the frigid river after losing both engines shortly after takeoff. The incident on Jan. 15, 2009 would go on to garner national recognition as one of the greatest rescues in history as Sully’s actions saved all 155 lives on board.
The film tells the story of some of what we might not have known as it transpired behind the media parade that surrounded Sully right after the emergency landing on the Hudson.
Tom Hanks plays Sully as we follow the captain while he faces utter scrutiny from the National Transportation Safety Board. While the world hailed him a hero, the NTSB attempted to pin the landing as unnecessary and an endangerment to all on board. Along with his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), their lifelong careers are on the line if it’s proven that they could have made it to the airport to make an emergency landing. Eastwood’s narrative focuses on Sully’s reflection of the event as he was under investigation and butting heads with those trying to put the blame on him.
Hanks’ endearing everyman Sully, who acted on his gut instinct, is instantly relatable. Overwhelmed with the attention and wanting to just get his life back, we connect with his struggle to not be scapegoated when he did the right thing. As the NTSB simulations keep coming in as there was a chance they could have landed, your blood runs cold as it’s contrasted with his flashbacks of how everything transpired. Even Eastwood’s choice flashbacks to Sully’s knack for flying and landing from his childhood cinematically illustrated that this person had real-life capabilities that a computer could never account for.
From the moment the birds hit both engines to them going out and the decision-making in only a few moments, you see how the math didn’t add up to the NTSB’s claims. The film makes the NTSB the unfeeling corporate villain, ready to dispose of the very person who did all he could do. The whole film you’re rooting for Sully just as the people who recognized him on the streets did. The film did an excellent job of portraying a man dealing with the PTSD of the near-death experience as it was aggravated by those seeking to accuse him of acting too rashly.
When everything comes to a head and the key to proving that he took the right actions in that moment presents itself, the film hits an emotional culmination and you almost want to get up and cheer.
Sully is filled with standout ensemble performances. Eckhart provides some of the film’s lighter-hearted moments and shows Sully as more human than the hero is now known as. It’s that humanity under Eastwood’s direction that Hanks embodies which reveals that he did what any person who knew what he had to do would do, computer calculations aside, and that’s take the best chance to save the lives entrusted to him.
Warner Bros. Pictures
In theaters Sept. 9
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