SULLY is based on the true story of a US Airways flight that did a controlled water landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. The flight was piloted by Captain Sullenberger, affectionately known as Sully, played here by Everyman Tom Hanks. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood and co-stars Aaron Eckhart.
A movie like this could have gone in two directions. It easily could have become a bit of a sensationalistic disaster movie causing the audience to rethink ever boarding a plane without Sully at the helm. Instead, it was handled more deftly and uniquely as the story of a man who was thrust into the spotlight for a single decision at the end of 42 years of flight experience. The choice to follow the storyline in this way elevated the movie and turned it into nuanced filmmaking. That said, there’s no doubt that this movie is solely and completely about Sully and his actions. The bits of humanity that are injected into the passengers are the weakest point in the story. They’re expected, right down to the mother with the baby on her lap.
The only spot that it disappointed me was Aaron Eckhart’s character, Sully’s co-pilot. He doesn’t have a lot to say in the movie and while his acting is good, he’s more a living prop than anything else.
Casting Tom Hanks was as expected as it was imperative. There’s no other actor who plays Everyman as well as he does, almost to his detriment. I believed every second of his performance, every grimace, every questioning look and every ounce of relief at hearing everyone survived. But, it becomes difficult in separating the good acting from the actor himself. Tom Hanks is so tied to his image and indeed his reputation of the kind Everyman that I didn’t quite known if I was watching Tom Hanks or if I was watching the most amazing performance ever.
There’s a great scene of Tom Hanks’ Sully talking to his wife on the phone and questioning if he did the right thing in landing on the Hudson. It’s shot with half of his face in shadow, a great bit of cinematography and direction showing exactly what he’s going through at that moment. In fact, the entire movie is well done.
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