Sully (2016)

Sully movie review
Photo Credit: Sully / Warner Bros Pictures
It's often said that everyday heroes aren't born, they're made. With years of experience and dedication behind them, gut instinct or intuition manages to override logistics. When a miracle trumps all the odds, it's easy to be skeptical or to think it's blind luck. All of this culminated with an on-screen adaptation of true events about Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) landing his passenger flight on the Hudson River to save everyone on board, and the attention it received as the Miracle on the Hudson.

Brought to life by veteran director Clint Eastwood, Sully is a combination of the events leading up to this unexpected landing and the aftermath. The story touches on a bit of everything like Sully's past his post-traumatic stress after the crash, the world's frenzy around his heroics, and his pragmatic ability to handle the press.

Though the movie is in experienced hands, it's not very clear what Eastwood's intention is. He certainly builds a heart-pounding recreation of Sully's flight from take-off to the landing, but other parts of the movie tries too much to be a biopic while capturing the insurance investigation he faces from the airline. Scenes dealing his shaky life at home feels cold and distant compared to the detail of Sully and the first-responders' actions bringing hope to New York City after 9/11.

Fortunately, Hanks makes the film take flight. His Sully is fairly pragmatic and dedicated to his job. Nothing of what he, his crew or the passengers survived could be trained for. Yet his entire career of transporting millions of people around the world and thousands of flights is judged on 208 seconds, and the experience he has to make the necessary calls. It's truly astounding and frustrating when he comes under fire for saving more than a hundred people as the inexplicable outcome is challenged as a fluke. Hanks is profoundly polished as Sully balances his worry of having failed his crew and the passengers, and the odd fad of becoming famous for what he did. It's one of his sharpest performances to date.

Hanks isn't entirely on his own. Every actor or extra like the first-responders, host of skeptic insurance agents, and his legion of admirers feel authentic. Aaron Eckhart as First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, in particular, has a refreshing sense of professional camaraderie as he and Sully's rapport is humorous and amiable. Despite dramatically re-enacting the whole incident from take-off to crash and the consequences, every scene feels sincere and avoids being over-the-top like many 'disaster' flicks.

Sully is a fitting addition to Eastwood's string of films focusing on All-American figures like J.Edgar, Jersey Boys and American Sniper. The story itself is fascinating, especially for those who remember the incident on the news but wasn't quite sure of all the details. Hanks' performance and the Miracle on the Hudson is an inspiring, distinct reminder of the human spirit, even if Eastwood's vision struggles to stay afloat.
Rating: ★★☆
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