The first question that came to mind when reading the premise of “Sully,” was how, exactly, an entire movie was going to be made out of this one event that lasted minutes – literally. Director, Clint Eastwood, however, doesn’t disappoint.
This autobiographical film tells the story of US Airways Fight 1549 and how Captain Chesley Sullenberger or, “Sully,” was forced to land the plane on the Hudson River, on a cold January afternoon in 2009.
The majority of the story focuses on the aftermath of the crash for Sully (Tom Hanks) and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), including dealing with a panel of judges and investigators, who seemingly have it out for the duo. Segments of time that jump from the hearing, Sully’s personal life and then back to telling the story of the crash, pepper-in the all too inquisitive, prodding panel, only adding to the stress that the characters are already under.
Skipping from the present (the hearing) to the past (the crash) to further in the past (learning to fly as a young man) to alternate storylines in the present (his paranoid visions of what could have happened or his wife’s role in it all), creates a sense of unease for the viewer, never knowing what will happen next – similar to Hank’s character as he awaits his sentence from the hearing. The most telling scenes were the ones of Sully alone – seeing the depression and anxiety that resulted from the incident; even scenes of him viewing the crash going worse than it actually did, invited us inside his head, intensifying the anxiety he feels.
Scenes of the crash itself were extraordinary. Throughout the film, the crash is revealed in chronological chunks, each scene showing a little bit of what was viewed in the last segment. At the end of the movie, the audience feels as though they’ve lived through this crash multiple times, suggesting Sully’s perspective during the investigation; reliving the crash over and over
again with each court hearing.
Hanks portrayed the role of Sully superbly – the mustache and the white hair capping off his professional, calm and somehow mysterious demeanor. Although we are allowed into the mind of Sully, he is a man of few words – one of the most striking lines in the movie comes when Sully realizes they are going to have to land in the river. Sully picks up his phone and tells the passengers in a concentrated voice, “brace for impact.”
Heroism is one of the main themes in this movie, not surprising for a film from Eastwood. Sullengerger saved 155 lives and while he is outwardly portrayed as a laid-back, professional pilot, this film captures an inward struggle that haunts him and his battle with the media attention that he discovers is equally unnerving. In contrast to other Eastwood films, the single tension is between Sully and the hearing board. Somehow, even though we know the outcome of this story, “Sully” manages to completely stress you out until the very end – but don’t worry, you go home happy.