Written by Alisa Pescosolido
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
This drama/documentary starring Tom Hanks (IMDB, 2016) as the titular character covers the real-life story of commercial airplane pilot Chesley Sullenberger. Based on the widely reported incident in 2009 where the pilot saved an entire plane full of passengers by choosing to land in the Hudson Bay, the film covers both the incident itself as well as the aftermath, showing how the media frenzy causes the pilot extreme emotional turmoil, and his struggles to prove that he made the right decision. While naturally slow-paced and perhaps not for everyone, this thoughtful biopic does well what it sets out to do and is immensely bolstered by the combined acting talent of Hanks & Eckhart.
While not visually groundbreaking, the movie does manage to incorporate a few brief but breathtaking CGI sequences which recreate the crash as well as a few alternate scenarios imagined by Hanks’ character. Great care was taken in establishing the realism of certain sets and locations around New York city, with some scenes of the plane crash being lifted directly from footage of the event itself. Due to the slower pacing, viewers may find themselves looking around the sets and picking out the carefully constructed details in the backgrounds.
The story of this movie is by far its strongest element. The film opts to only delve into the recreation of the event after first setting up Sully’s emotions during the aftermath. Graceful, reverent and down to earth with the topic its discussing, the movie’s story centers on a message about how human beings struggle and survive under pressure, but also how we can use our flexibility and ingenuity in order to overcome immense difficulties. Chesley Sullenburger struggles to deal with the media circus that erupts after he saves all of his passengers by landing a plane in the Hudson Bay after a bird strike. On top of this he suddenly finds himself risk of losing his license for possible misconduct with the way he handled the emergency. Ultimately, he must prove that it was his human element that allowed him to make the right decision in order to save his family, reputation and career.
Sully is certainly a very niche movie, even with two stellar actors as the main characters. While a dignified tribute to the source story that delivers on what it promises, the pacing can be tiringly slow with a few humorous or dramatic moments to break up what can feel like a movie much longer than it actually is. At the same time, I was impressed with the depths that the movie went to in order to ground itself firmly in the real of the events that it discussed, and how well a single message about human ability was carried throughout the entire movie. Instead of opting to pad out what could have been a full-length action movie focused completely on landing the plane safely, the filmmakers chose a more human perspective that dealt well with the consequences of suddenly being thrust from a regular life into fame and controversy. If anything, this is the factor that sets this movie apart from others like it, making it an honest look into a side of a story we’ve never heard.
Final Rating: 4/5