Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks Come Close to the Skies With Sully
September 18, 2016
Clint Eastwood needs a comeback. Having had a few arguable misfires (American Sniper, Flags of Our Fathers, etc.) lately and more than a few inarguable ones (Jersey Boys, Hereafter, J. Edgar, etc.), the once-prolific director is in need of redemption. While his latest effort Sully may not reach the heights of Eastwood classics such as Unforgiven or Mystic River, it signals a welcome return to form, albeit an ultimately unimaginative one.
Retelling the true story of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, Sully follows Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the pilot who, after a bird attack that resulted in dual-engine loss, managed to land a jetliner on the Hudson River. However, the film centers its attention on the resulting National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the forced landing as well as Sullenberger himself, questioning whether or not the veteran pilot could have brought the aircraft to a nearby airport. These doubts were largely driven by newly implemented simulation programs.
If that sounds like a slightly limited plot, it is because it is, making Sully constantly overridden by the fact that it is all much ado about nothing; its 96-minute running time feels more like two and a half hours. That is, in large part, thanks to the film’s unbelievably dull tone and workmanlike nature that is oddly reminiscent of its real life protagonist.
Fortunately, Sully does kick into the gear when in the cockpit. The crash sequence is among the best in film history, since Eastwood wrings out of every ounce of tension possible. He is aided by some truly remarkable sound design, each and every crack and sudden shake wonderfully captured.
The film’s greatest qualities lie in its performances. Hanks, perfectly cast, delivers one of his best performances yet. His inherent likability and earnesty allows him to step into Sully’s shoes like it is nothing. Offering able support are Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney as Sullenberger’s copilot and wife respectively. Eckhart stands out in particular with what may be his best work yet, dependably charismatic but also reaching a level of depth rarely found in the supporting roles of character studies.
Despite its flaws, there is something within Eastwood’s film that makes it memorable. What is most intriguing about Sully is not found on the surface level. It is found in its commentary on the modern world, both in regard to general life and film. There is something downright inspiring about a director telling the story of a master of his craft being denigrated by the age of technology, by crafting a true film, almost entirely devoid of CGI or special effects in general.
While it may lack the urgency the story requires, Clint Eastwood’s Sully is a powerfully relevant work that not only hints at a true resurgence for the director, but also contains two of the year’s finest performances, with Hanks announcing himself as an early contender for the Best Actor Oscar race.