REVIEW: Suspenseful Filmmaking And Great Performances Help ‘Sully’ Soar

Clint Eastwood’s directing chops are once again on display here in “Sully,” making for some of the most tense movie sequences put to screen so far in 2016.

This picture follows the story of Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), a pilot who landed a commercial airliner on the Hudson River in January 2009. The film picks up in the immediate aftermath of the landing, with Sully still in New York City and meeting with safety and transportation officials for a review of what happened.

As the days go on, the movie explores Sully’s reaction to his sudden fame, his questioning of whether or not he did the right thing and his response to panels of flight officials who are investigating the landing.

“Sully” isn’t a linear movie in the traditional sense. While the film has an overarching narrative focusing on the investigation, the story unfolds with a series of flashbacks and daydream sequences. This format helps the audience better look inside the mind of Sully as he was being questioned for his actions and also as he’s reflecting on his career as a whole.

The movie could have been a point A to point B dramatization of beginning, middle and end, but by having the film take place after the ‘Miracle on the Hudson,’ the whole picture becomes a story of reflection, and that’s why an audience can gain a better understanding of what the protagonists went through.

With that said, some of the flashbacks here and there felt either a bit out of place or cut off too short, making the movie appear a bit choppy sometimes. Additionally, the movie’s main story focusing on the airline investigation felt a bit too ‘witch hunt-ish’ at times, with the panel being a little too antagonistic, rather than just being realistically straightforward.

Another flaw the film has was its portrayal of Sully’s family. There are just a few scenes with Sully’s wife Lorraine (Laura Linney) on the phone, but nothing beyond that. For example, it’s noted that Sully has children, but we don’t get to see their reaction. A few more scenes like that in this movie with just a 96 minute run time would have been welcome.

Even with those issues, though, the previous statements about the film giving the audience such great perspective combined with the amazing sequences of the actual landing create for a great overall experience. Speaking of the actual Hudson landing itself, the whole segment is handled extremely well, being one of those situations where you know the outcome, but what’s on screen is still thrilling and suspenseful.

All of the positives in this movie likely wouldn’t have been as possible, though, without the fantastic performance from Tom Hanks. Not surprisingly, the Academy Award winner absolutely shines as the now legendary pilot.

During the landing scenes, Hanks perfectly displays the emotions of his character, both fear from the situation and the adrenaline of his flight experience helping him pull off the improbable. Another example is during the meetings with the panel of officials, where Hanks portrays Sully as knowing that the plane was in trouble but also questioning whether he made the right decision.

Aaron Eckhart meanwhile, who plays the co-pilot Jeff Skiles, gives one of his best performances in years. Eckhart is great as Sully’s co-pilot, showing constant support for the landing procedure during the questioning while also displaying his own post-event stress.

While the situation is also so well known now that Sully himself has achieved almost a legendary status, both Hanks and Eckhart play their characters with a lot of humbleness and manage to humanize these men who did this incredible thing. This in turn helps make the characters that much more relatable to the audience.

“Sully” has some issues that hold it back somewhat, but the film’s suspenseful scenes are so well shot, the audience gets  a full understanding of what happened and the acting is at a high enough level to warrant a 4 out of 5.