With the passing of Labor Day comes the unofficial end of summer, and with it, the end of the summer movie season. Dramas get just a little more dramatic, acting just a little more attention-grabbing, and the words ‘based on a true story’ begins to apply to at least a film per month for the rest of fall.
However, just because movies tend to come in predictable cycles does not make the bad films any less bad, or the great films any less great. “Sully,” the Clint Eastwood directed drama, concerns the miraculous water landing of critically damaged US Airways Flight 154; with it the 2016 fall movie season is off on a high note.
Tom Hanks portrays Captain Chelsey Sullenberger in “Sully”. (Photo Courtesy of Comingsoon.net)
Director Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Gran Torino”) and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki focus primarily on the immediate repercussions of the water-landing as they pertained to Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks). This decision puts the focus on Sully, and what his character goes through in the days right after the historic crash landing.
The film begins in 2009, a day after Sully successfully lands a passenger jet with two damaged engines on the Hudson River, saving 155 lives. Afterwards, Sully must cope with his status as a national hero and as a man under investigation by the U.S. government for allegedly damaging a plane and needlessly endangering the lives of the passengers. As the film progresses, Sully, his wife Loraine (Lara Linney), and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), try to cope with the enormity of the situation amidst the immediate investigation in to the necessity of the water landing,; Sully insists that the had no other options. As with most films based on real events, the less you know about what happened, the more suspenseful the story will be.
Eastwood successfully navigates all the pitfalls of adapting a story like this. Together with screenwriter Todd Komarnicki, they tell a multi-layered story in 96 succinct minutes– from the investigation, the reactions of the characters, minute details of the take-off, systems failure, landing, rescue and reactions from the press and others. The dialogue is excellent, with nearly everyone having a bevy of memorable dialogue. The story lags a bit towards the middle, but after every perplexing embellishment comes a great line, or an event which brings you right back in.
Hanks is outstanding as Sully, who is convinced that he did the right thing by not trying to land at the nearest runway. As evidence mounts again him, Sully begins to wonder if he put his career, and subsequently his family’s finances, at risk when he might have been able to land safely at LaGuardia Airport. Hank’s Sully is a determined man, who also is not prepared for the adulation and pressure of becoming an American Hero overnight. Eckhart and Linney likewise supply their characters with equal amounts of emotional depth and believably.
Sully has a lot to offer for moviegoers, but those looking for a riveting experience will likely be disappointed. The flight sequences are incredible– potentially even better with an IMAX showing. However, most scenes are essentially conversations taking place in buildings and on the streets of New York. If you want a blockbuster, try waiting for November.
If you like Hanks as an actor, Eastwood as a director, or would like to see an engaging drama with great acting, great writing, and brilliantly directed scenes from within the cockpit of an airliner, “Sully” is just the film to remind you that Fall movies can be great, too.
Running time: 96
Playing in theaters now