By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – Tom Hanks
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 1 hr 36 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – U.S.A
Oscar – 1 Nomination
Awards – 12 Wins & 33 Nominations
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So we all know the amazing story of Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles who belly flopped an Airbus A320 exquisitely onto an icy Hudson River after a bird strike knocked out both engines, no one killed and only a couple of injuries, heroic to say the least. Although this is a pretty recent event in our memories there was no real footage of the impact like 911 and so Hollywood decided there was a movie there to fill in the gaps, 86-year-old Clint Eastwood taking it on to squeeze even more drama into the story, and Tom Hanks, of course, playing the hero. The interpolated angle here is that maybe Sully could have landed the plane on a concrete runway, a question asked in the following air crash investigations. I guess the images of 911 welded into every pilot’s minds as the planes crashed into the skyscrapers for real in a ball of flames all those years ago is the real reason Sully chose the river than falling short over crowded streets and houses on the approach to another runway. That is a level of heroism beyond our comprehension. I guess that’s why he deserves a film so soon.
Tom Hanks … Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger
Aaron Eckhart … Jeff Skiles
Valerie Mahaffey … Diane Higgins
Delphi Harrington … Lucille Palmer
Mike O’Malley … Charles Porter
Jamey Sheridan … Ben Edwards
Anna Gunn … Elizabeth Davis
Holt McCallany … Mike Cleary
Ahmed Lucan … Egyptian Driver
Laura Linney … Lorrie Sullenberger
Captain Chesley Sullenberger – ‘Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time’.
So, January 15, 2009, and US Airways pilots Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) took off from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International. Just three minutes into the descent the Airbus A320, at 2,800 feet, strikes a flock of birds, appearing to disable both turbines. Without engine power and lift and judging themselves unable to reach nearby airports (Teterboro Airport being the closest), Sully ditches the aircraft on the Hudson River. Somewhat incredibly, the crew and passengers evacuated without casualty and the plane did not sink. The press and public hail Sullenberger an American hero.
We pick up the story soon after the crash as the investigation gets underway in New York.
Sully learns that preliminary technical data from the crash site suggests that one of the engines was still running at idle in the air after the strike. Theoretically, this would have left him with enough power for more options, the early accusation. The National Transportation Safety Board plan to air several confidential computerized simulations from experienced pilots that show the plane could have landed safely at a close airport without engines. At the inquiry Sully will insists that he lost both engines, which left him without sufficient time, speed, or altitude to land safely at any airport.
His nights are still haunted by the crash, as are his co-pilots, not helped by the pressure of the inquiry. It seems the board is pushing for pilot error for insurance reasons and the airline protecting him to avoid a huge law suit against them. During the trial process, through flashbacks, we see the build up to the crash, the actual event and the actions the pilots took to save lives, and the family and friends praying for them. Are they heroes or just human?
This would be Clint Eastwood’s shortest film to date, if we are honest, because there isn’t a really a film to be made after just four years after the event. He has created tension outside of the actual crash, which is handled well with special effects and onboard sweaty palms, by exaggerating the blame game around the crash to make his film more dramatic, to which the real people involved in the NTSA were not best pleased about. They were just doing their job vigorously and systematically, merely trying to gather enough data to stop this type of crash happening again. They are not always in the blame game. Eastwood snarled that one off.
For its $60 million budget it did $240 million back so pretty good by Eastwood, considering. Its main market in the U.S. would have heard the arguments over liability and seen hundreds of reconstructions on the news and documentaries yet still they went to see the movie in 2016, the power of Tom Hanks pulling power, I guess. Flashback to the events of the crash help to build the tension and you are in that cockpit with the pilot having to make that scary call of ‘we are going in the Hudson’. The emotional stuff in between of Sullenberger beginning to doubt himself slows things down again and really a film that suffers because the events are so contemporary. United 92 worked much better for me on that score. Apollo 13, one of Hanks best movies, worked so much better worldwide because time had passed and meant a third of the world, including me, the people most likely to go to that movie, did not know about this particular heroic and amazing story and so had far greater impact. It was the same with the film about the guy who tightropes between the Twin Towers in the 1970s.
On the whole it’s an entertaining drama on an incredible event and story but nothing special. Hanks is well cast but it needed to be more of an intelligent forensic film if it was to hang on the investigation over the crash the way it did. Eastwood goes half way on both and so the film loses its anger. The China Syndrome is an example of how to do it. We don’t even know if the engine was running by the end of it as the film also refuse to pass judgment on Sully, the same way Oliver Stone’s tedious World Trade Center film drama did.
IMDb.com – 7.5/10.0 (169,245votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 86% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – % critic’s approval
Financial Times –’Sully is about the man who landed the plane on the Hudson. Who better for Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger than Tom Hanks in white hair and matching moustache?’
London Evening Standard –’How do you make a full-length feature film about the “miracle on the Hudson”, dramatic and inspiring as it may be? Easy. You get Clint Eastwood, 86, to direct’.
The Star –’Eastwood’s cinema, notwithstanding its narrow thematic range, generates ideological and emotional complexity, even on a seemingly simple narrative’
Baltimore Times –’As tension builds inside the pilot who made headlines… so does the tension build in this film by director Clint Eastwood. Before you know it, you’re wrapped up in the drama…’
Independent –’Sully is the kind of film that Howard Hawks might have made in times gone by. It’s a tale of quiet, unfussy heroism; of highly trained professionals doing their jobs in the most challenging circumstances imaginable’.
The Mail –’Sully saved lives and for that he almost lost his pension. This detailed drama tells you why’.
The Guardian –’Even a likable and authoritative performance from Tom Hanks can’t keep this movie in the air’.