On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed "Sully", glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.
- Written by Warner Bros.
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Hello, Movie Buffs!
On January 15, 2009, US Airways pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) safely lands 155 souls into the Hudson River after he struggles with a bird-strike that cripples both engines. As many audience members know from the true story, every passenger and crew member survived the crash. So what could director Clint Eastwood (American Sniper, Mystic River) possibly bring to the big screen that could engage an audience knowing the outcome without seeming like another useless documentary? First, he brings Tom Hanks (Cast Away, BIG, Apollo 13), who is not unknown when it comes to portraying low-key heroes – especially in his most recent films Bridge of Spies (2015) and Captain Phillips (2013)– and understands how to accurately reflect the courage of an average man trying to save himself and the lives of the people he is responsible for. Second, it is a terrifically detailed and slow moving work by Eastwood, who crafts one of the most believable crash and rescue scenes ever made. Sully continues Eastwood's legacy by giving us one of the most transparent and companionate dramas of 2016. Clint Eastwood's unfazed skill in storytelling is assured and Sully definitely belongs to the top tier of his pantheon of good movies that include Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Of course, there will be plenty of obstacles with any film based on a true story but it is even more difficult when a film based on an event that lasted a mere 208 seconds. However, if there's one thing you can count on the 86 year old living legend Clint Eastwood doing well, it is directing an emotionally heartfelt story and he manages to pull a great story out of these unbelievable events. He continually expresses a measure of humanity throughout the entire film both in the action and the acting.
The story clearly rests on Tom Hanks’ experienced shoulders who has built a reputation in playing understated and reluctant heroes, as seen in the recent Bridge of Spies (2015) and Captain Phillips (2013), so there is no doubt that he delivered in this role. Hanks’ authentic interpretation of the quietly unheroic hero pilot, Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, during the disaster and its aftermath is compelling and modest. There is no swelling of unnecessary emotion or morbid music that takes away from the terror. He underplays Sully – who has 42 years of flying experience and knows the aircraft like the back of his hand – and in doing so he brings out the more profound human qualities of the man. His sullenly limited and distant manner displays a fully functioning problem solver's mind, as he begins to calculate the probability of survival in the moments after the birds hit the plane engines. Throughout the movie, we see a man who has been shaken to his core as the doubts start to set in when the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) start ripping apart his heroic maneuver and rather paint him as a fraud.
Again Tom Hanks pulls out the big speeches and powerful dialogue effortlessly but I have found that his more subtle acting moments are the most impressive parts of his career. There are small moments when Sully is reacting to the big moments with only his facial expressions and body languages that tell an undisclosed story that gives me goose-bumps. Not many actors are able to bring me to the verge of tears just by a facial expression like Tom Hanks. Simply put, Sully is a Tom Hanks' film with his impassive and no-frills acting, followed by the supportive acting of the rest of the cast. Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen), as the co-pilot Jeff Skiles, is a supportive and loyal ally. Laura Linney’s (The Truman Show, Mystic River) portrayal of the ever-annoying wife-in-waiting Lorrain Sullenberger, is stronger and more balanced than even the most reserved characters. Although Delphi Harrington (Breathing Lessons), as the passenger in the wheelchair, is a greatly underused actress, in this film she was marvelous as a somewhat stereotypical New York Jewish mother despite having such a small role. The rest of the passengers are not really first-rate actors, though they do bring a measure of sincerity and humanity to each individual person. However, it is this type of powerful under-acting that is symbolic to the director himself; as a lean craftsman who wastes no time in production and unnecessary puffery.
Of course, the flight itself isn't the only hurdle that Captain Sully went through, as he dealt with reporters, investigators, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), who were determined to diminish his heroic efforts. Because the simulations at the NTSB hearings were necessary to prove fault, the contrast between the NTSB’s creations and Eastwood's interpretation of the real incident is relentlessly reminiscent of the film's attempt to get it all right. Even though the grilling of the NTSB's towards Sully and his co-pilot is unsettling as they track all of his alleged errors, it has a more low-profile approach. Confirming director Eastwood's and writer Todd Komarnicki's (Elf, Perfect Stranger) affirmation that everyone in the film is doing his/her job; from the pilots, investigators, and rescue teams to the director and writer of the film. The final star of the film is definitely the plane crash, and the visuals and sounds are a feast for the senses. The audience gets to see the crash and its aftermath from every physical and emotional angle; never have I seen a movie reenact a plane crash so visceral and real. I believe that Sully offers a fulfilling insight into what it would have been like to experience a plane crash without actually being in one. The entire production team deserves credit for their work and much like Tom Hanks' subtle acting, they knew when to use the music to pull the emotion out of the audience and when to hold back so that the audience has the choice to feel emotion simply by watching the gorgeous cinematography (by Tom Stern – Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River) and poignant acting and directing.
Overall, Sully flies above the usual biopic cliché and is more of an homage to a modest man who rose to an extraordinary occasion and a salute to professionalism both towards the crew members of flight 1549 and the rescue teams; displaying the simple heroism of ordinary people which is rarely seen in movies these days. It is reliving that this story does not carry an ounce of patriotism and is the perfect combination of the loud and the silence as well carrying all the human elements of a near air disaster. In addition, Sully offers a new found respect for not only pilots but also for flight attendants, who portray a more sincere bravery and composure as they direct the passengers: “Brace. Brace. Brace. Head down, stay down!” The majority of Sully greatly demonstrates the power of the humanity and with Hollywood often flooding a movie with over-the-top filmmaking that results in the power of the film's message being diluted, the production team has a clear vision and executes it to near perfection.
“Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time.”
- Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger
Worth Seeing: 5 of 5 stars
Worth Buying: 5 of 5 stars
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Bridge of Spies (2015)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Deepwater Horizon (2016)
Patriot’s Day (2016)
United 93 (2006)
Cast & Crew
Directed by Clint Eastwood
(Written by) Todd Komarnicki
(Based on book “Highest Duty”) Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
Bruce Berman --- executive producer
Clint Eastwood --- producer
Frank Marshall --- producer
Jessica Meier --- co-producer
Steven Mnuchin --- executive producer
Tim Moore --- producer
Kipp Nelson --- executive producer
Kristina Rivera --- co-producer
Allyn Stewart --- producer
Music by Christian Jacob and Tierney Sutton Band
Cinematography by Tom Stern
Film Editing by Blu Murray
Production Design by James J. Murakami
Tom Hanks --- Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger
Aaron Eckhart --- Jeff Skiles
Valerie Mahaffey --- Diane Higgins
Delphi Harrington --- Lucille Palmer
Mike O'Malley --- Charles Porter
Jamey Sheridan --- Ben Edwards
Anna Gunn --- Elizabeth Davis
Holt McCallany --- Mike Cleary
Laura Linney --- Lorrie Sullenberger
Katie Couric --- Katie Couric
Jeff Kober --- LT Cook
Blake Jones --- Sully (16 Years Old)
Molly Bernard --- Alison
Chris Bauer --- Larry Rooney
Jane Gabbert --- Sheila Dail
Ann Cusack --- Donna Dent
Molly Hagan --- Doreen Welsh
Purva Bedi --- Gursimran
Max Adler --- Jimmy Stefanik
Sam Huntington --- Jeff Kolodjay
Christopher Curry --- Rob Kolodjay
Ashley Austin Morris --- Emily - Gate Attendant
Cooper Thornton --- Jim Whitaker
Autumn Reeser --- Passenger with Baby
Jeffrey Nordling --- Barry Leonard
Patch Darragh --- Patrick Harten
Marcia DeBonis --- Shae Childers
Noel Fisher --- GIB - Andrew Carrigan
Vincent Lombardi --- Captain Vincent Peter Lombardi
Jeremy Luke --- Victor Gaggero
Bernardo Badillo --- Robert Rodriguez
Jerry Ferrara --- Michael Delaney
Randall Pinkston --- Randall Pinkston
Graham Sibley --- Carlo Alfonso
Grant Roberts --- Franco Santini
Wayne Bastrup --- Brian Kelly
Bobby Cuza --- Bobby Cuza
Billy Smith --- Dan Britt
Clayton Landey --- Arnie Gentile
Tracee Chimo --- Evelyn May
Brett Rice --- Carl Clarke
Kristine Johnson --- Kristine Johnson
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