Clint Eastwood is known for taking on very heroic stories and managing to weave out of many possible cheesy outcomes and delivering a subtle and moving film. His paring with Tom Hanks – one of the greatest actors of all time – proves very fruitful in Sully.
Sully is the true story of the emergency landing of a commercial flight on the Hudson River in New York in January 2009, and the events following it. The big hero in the film is the flight captain, the experienced and calm Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), who managed to land and save all 155 people on board. A very competent Aaron Eckhart plays his co-pilot, and Laura Linney plays Sully’s distressed wife.
The film is composed in a series of time jumps, with the film starting after the landing, and then jumping into the moment, and even to past events in Sully’s life. This editing choice could have resulted in an absolute mess, but Eastwood is such an experienced and focused director, that every cut was precisely pieced together so that the film flows smoothly and at an excellent pace.
There also was the problem of the story. The actual events that took place only make for maybe thirty minutes if extended with cinematic tension, but Eastwood’s composition and structure of the film gave leeway for an analysis of his hero as well as a constant dose of tension, so that you never really focus on the lack of more story.
One question I have asked myself after I saw the film is why Hanks and Eastwood have never teamed up before. They are two of the greatest American artists still working today, and seeing their product in Sully makes you hope for future pairings. Hanks is superb playing the calm leader in a great moment of stress, something that for sure is familiar to him after similar roles in Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, and Captain Phillips; he seems to have perfected the tone by giving a fantastically subtle performance in Sully.
Sully is another great film by Eastwood, who expertly pulls an inspiring and subtle film out of a short event. Hanks is great in the titular role, giving one of his best performances in years.