ReviewAway: Sully (2016)

There’s a plethora of movies about miracles; stories in which nearly Nietzschean super-men and women encounter no-win scenarios and manage to triumphantly save the day with mere seconds to spare. Sully is not one of these movies. Instead of making a movie about US Airways Flight 1549’s mythical landing on the Hudson River in early 2009, screen legend and veteran director Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby) instead opts to turn his cameras away from the spectacle and focus on the man that made it possible, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. In doing so he turns what could have been a middling drama filled with tears of joy and hero worship into a serious look at a man trying to cope with the ramifications of his actions.
Any film based so heavily around a single like Sully is will always be at the mercy of its lead, and true to form, Tom Hank’s (Bridge of Spies) portrayal of Captain Sullenberger has more than enough subtlety and nuance to keep the film interesting even with the audience being painfully aware of the outcome. In fact the real achievement of Sully is that even armed with the knowledge that everyone gets out alive, all the components of the film mesh in a way that there’s still a palpable sense of tension during the aircraft scenes. It’s a testament to both Eastwood’s skill as a director and Hanks’ skill as leading man that Sully somehow manages to keep you guessing from scene to scene. There’s a lot of raw emotion in the movie, but perhaps more impressively, there’s much more subdued emotion in the movie, and instead trying to be loud and intense, Hanks instead portrays a character desperately trying to keep his emotions in check but at the same time making it clear to the audience that he’s terrified.
The excellent acting doesn’t end with Hank though, with co-star Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) providing a great counterpoint to the subdued Hanks with his much more animated and lively portrayal of Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles. Hanks and Eckhart work fantastically off of each other, and help to give the film a much needed sense of groundedness. This doesn’t persist throughout the entire film however, and some points in the film are a touch too melodramatic for their own good. You can really only hear the passengers say “I love you” so many times before it get’s to be a touch too corny to stomach. Visually the film is nothing special, with some good cinematography and camerawork during the crash sequences, but s the film focuses so much on Hanks’ portrayal of Sully, there’s quite a few long sequences with very steady camerawork, although the action on screen ensures that the stability never becomes boring.


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