Sully is one of those movies that everyone will like. Not just because it has Tom Hanks in it (and we all love Tom Hanks) but because it manages to be a thrilling disaster movie and a feel-good movie at the same time.
If you don’t remember the events of January 15, 2009, let me give you a quick refresher. US Airways Flight 1549 takes off from LaGuardia Airport, New York. Minutes later, a flock of birds blows out both engines. What happened next is known in popular culture as the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’. Captain Chesley Sullenburger (Hanks) manages to land the plane in (you guessed it) the Hudson River, and not a soul is lost.
Considering this happened in 2009 and is relatively fresh in people’s minds, you might assume it will make for a straightforwardly boring movie. Not so. It’s based on Sully’s own memoir “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” which he co-wrote with journalist Jeffrey Zaslow. Director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki hold back the actual flight for as long as possible, instead zeroing in on the aftermath of the accident and how Sully responded.
Sully isn’t a character with a lot of depth but he has a whole lot of heart. He’s a pilot who prides himself on safely delivering nearly a million passengers over some 40 years. He’s a pilot who risks himself, desperately searching a sinking plane for anyone left behind. He’s a pilot who pushes everything aside and concerns himself solely with the “155 souls on board”.
The inherent goodness of Sully means you are one hundred per cent on his side no matter what happens. He tortures himself with thoughts of what could have been. He is investigated by a team from the National Transportation Safety Board. His sobriety, mental health and capability as a pilot are questioned. It is insisted that a flight that lasted merely a few hundred seconds should have been able to safely return to the airport.
The combination of Hanks and Eastwood make what could have been an average drama-in-the-sky truly engaging. Tom Hanks shines in this role, giving a vanilla character heart and depth. Visually, it’s a typical Eastwood movie, but in the best kind of way. Clint Eastwood is 86 now, but if he’s turning out movies like this I’m hoping that he’ll remain in the director’s chair for a long time.
Sully is dramatic, feel-good, and as American as apple pie. As one supporting character mentions “It’s been a while since New York had news this good, especially with an airplane in it.”