Film Review: Sully

by Lachlan Anderson

Rated M. Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

New York City has not had a good history when it comes to air travel in the last twenty years. Following 9/11 any New Yorker would be excused to think the worst when they see an A320 jet hurtling toward the river. In January 2009 however, the worst didn’t happen. Sully is the latest film by Clint Eastwood (American Sniper) based on the real life event that has been named “The Miracle on the Hudson”.

On January 15, 2009 Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) departs from New York on US Airways flight 1549. Only a few minutes into the flight a bird strike causes both engines to fail. Sully miraculously lands the plane in the icy Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board. In the following days he is hounded by the press, who have hailed him as a hero, whilst he and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Eckhart) are the subject of an investigation which could end his 42 year career. The loss of anonymity, pressure from the investigation, and post-traumatic stress begin to take their toll on Sully’s mental state throughout the entire ordeal.

Sully feels like safe territory for Eastwood. True tales of American heroism is something he has explored in American Sniper and Flags of Our Fathers and this time he seems to have found a comfortable groove to tell this kind of story. It’s a simple film, built heavily on strong performances by its two leads. Hanks and Eckhart are easily two of Hollywood’s most endearing actors and it shows in Sully. Hanks in particular brings his beloved charm to the humble pilot, whilst balancing the more nuanced aspects of a man suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s always good to find films that can pepper light hearted moments throughout an otherwise very serious drama.

As good as the performances are, the film struggles at times to really take off and by the time it gets going it’s already time to land. Yes, I did just make that pun. Sully relies heavily on a flashback structure, which slows the film down in the middle and forces the final act to kick into overdrive to raise the tension levels to where they should be. In doing so, the investigative panel come off more like corporate bad guys when they need not be.

What stands out from the film is the question of heroism. Sully, the flight crew, some of the passengers and city officials are all heroic in their own way. In many ways the film is a love letter to the people of New York and their ability to come together in times of crisis. What kind of heroes do we have to look to? Firstly, we have Jesus. Do you reflect on the sheer magnitude of what He did up on the cross? If we want a model for true heroism then we need look no further.

But, in other ways we are also called to be heroes. In Sully, the citizens of the city banded together to help those in need. As a global family, united under Jesus, we are called to do the same; to reflect the heroic sacrifice Jesus made. When you watch Sully, think, “how can I, as part of the church, do my part to help those who need it?”

The Verdict: An inspiring true story that highlights the better aspects of humanity in the face of near catastrophe. Tom Hanks turns in a multi-faceted and enjoyable performance. As a whole though, the film is suffers from some structural and script issues. 4/5

Sully releases in cinemas worldwide later this week.

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