Nutshell: A lovely story about a true hero of our time. Almost anyone else could have turned this slice-of-heroic-life tale into a maudlin Lifetime Movie-of-the-Week, but Eastwood – along with a stellar cast that includes Tom Hanks as Sully and Laura Linney as his wife – manages to turn a tale we already know into an immensely watchable, moving film. Grade: A
“This is the Captain. Brace for impact.”
Story: Everyone who was alive and cognizant of social media back in ’09 knows about the Miracle On The Hudson, when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a US Airways Airbus A320-214 onto the Hudson River. Onto, not into; Sully managed to land his plane in such a way that not a single soul on board died. A few bumps, bruises, a serious laceration, and a lot of hypothermia. But all-in-all, for landing in water, which was typically thought to be a death sentence for all concerned? A literal miracle.
Genre I’d put it in: Low-key feel good hero-pic.
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Orignal: Based on Sullenberger’s October 2009 memoir, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters.
Gotta say: Is it any wonder Hollywood jumped at the chance to tell Sully’s story? Luckily, it was award-winning director Clint Eastwood who brought it to the multiplex. Eastwood gathered together an excellent cinematographer (Tom Stern; The Hunger Games, American Sniper) and production designer (James J. Murakami; Deadwood, J. Edgar)
And he got a stable full of award winners to step in front of the camera too. While I never got past the That’s Tom Hanks feeling, he did an admirable job portraying the steadfastness and terror of a man who was called on to do the unimaginable, and did. Aaron Eckhart, as second-in-command Captain Jeff Skiles, rocks a killer ‘stache, and is able to keep a man who was happy to fade into the background from doing so in this film. Of course, Laura Linney is always amazing, and while her “wifey at home” role is rather thankless, Linney, along with screenwriter Todd Komarnicki (Resistance) add layers that breathe live into her character.
My only problem with this film? The stars and director are so incredibly good at their jobs of bringing this nuanced but gentle story to life, that voters may pass them – and this film – over come awards season. Eastwood, Hanks, Linney, Eckhart and the rest of the cast and make filming this story and portraying these characters look effortless. In fact, that feeling that this is just a slice of heroic life is what makes Sully so compelling. These are everyday folks (okay, as far as airline pilots are everyday folks) that survived and coped with something everyone fears, but not everyone survives. That Sully kept the humanity in the heroic is the true miracle in this film.
#Protip: The post-credits real life footage of Sully, his wife, and the 155 survivors of Flight 1549 was filmed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, NC, where the restored plane is on display.