Eastwood’s “Sully” Is A Heartfelt Triumph

By Scott Kurland
Film: Sully
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Mike O’Malley, and Jamey Sheridan
Rated PG-13
Director: Clint Eastwood

Regardless of the outcome, we always remember where we were when an event occurs that has a profound impact on our psyche. I remember where I was when 9/11 happened ( 9th grade science class). I remember where I was when the police were chasing O.J Simpson in the white Bronco (it was my  10th birthday…hooray). I also remember where I was during the event that came to be known as “The Miracle on The Hudson," because I watched it happen. I was working in New York on a TV show and, from the window, I saw helicopters, rescue crews, and safety divers rush to the U.S. Airways flight that had crashed into the Hudson River. This week’s film “Sully”  is based on the real life story of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, starring Tom Hanks and directed by “The Man With No Name” himself, Clint Eastwood. Let’s find out if it’s any good shall we?

“Sully” is the story of Captain Sullenberg (Tom Hanks), following the events of his miraculous landing on the Hudson River. Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are widely considered heroes to the world, but not everyone sees them that way. Sully and Skiles are under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board because the NTSB believes they could have made it back to LaGuardia Airport without damaging the plane. During the course of the investigation, Sully begins to question his judgement and doubts his abilities, all while being plagued by nightmares of the plane crashing. Will Sully and Skiles prove they were right or will the NTSB cast a dark light on their miraculous landing?

This is a powerful film all because of its subtlety, timing, and execution. For the last few years I have felt Clint Eastwood has not been at the top of his game. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about the award winning “American Sniper.” Let’s be serious. Before “Sniper” , Eastwood's films include: “Jersey Boys”, “J. Edgar”, and “Hereafter”. I have a feeling that, if I didn’t just list the aforementioned films, you wouldn’t have remembered them. Now if I say “Million Dollar Baby” or “Gran Torino”, you’d remember that they were award-winning critical darlings. Also, they’re pretty damn good films. “Sully” is Eastwood’s best films in almost a decade. Eastwood’s direction is near perfect, Todd Komarnicki’s script is clever and filled with wonderful storytelling. The film could have began with the events of the crash, but they don’t. We don’t see Sully’s recollection of the real crash until halfway through the film. In all honesty, the crash is like the shark from “Jaws”. We don’t get a full glimpse of it for a really long time, but when we do, it grabs you with both hands. The films really succeeds because of both Eastwood and Komarnicki, and it made a routine story become a suspense-filled psychological thrill ride. 

I really hate that Tom Hanks, a two time Academy Award winner, keeps getting snubbed for nominations. Hanks is a living legend and has given two award-worthy performances; one in 2014 (Captain Phillips) and last year (Bridge of Spies). He was looked over for two amazing performances. I pray that he’s remembered come award season this year. “Sully” is Hank’s best performance since “Forrest Gump”. Hanks really thrives in roles that he loses himself in, and “Sully” is no exception. Hanks’ version of Sully isn’t the same man we saw on “Letterman” or on the news. This is a tortured man, suffering from nightmares of crashing and burning alive. Hanks gives a raw performance that is possibly the best of 2016. Whether he is remembered in December is up to the voters. If I had a vote, I’d check off Hanks’ name.

Besides Hanks, this is a film filled with many great performances. Eckhart gives his best performance since “Thank You For Smoking”. Mike O’Malley shines as one of the three investigators; looking at Sully and Skiles’ through a microscope. Who would have thought the host of “Nickelodeon’s GUTS” and “Yes, Dear” would give a great antagonistic performance? I sure didn’t, and am pleasantly surprised by what I saw. What’s great about “Sully” is how real the smaller characters feel. Whether they’re investigating two pilots, or honoring them as heroes, everyone in the cast pulls their weight. 

“Sully” does have some minor faults that can be overlooked. I didn’t need all the flashbacks of young Sully crop dusting a field, nor did I need test-pilot-Sully pulling a “Top Gun”. However, this time I didn’t mind it as much as I usually do, because the message never gets lost. This is a film about a man who pulled off the impossible, and Eastwood conveys that from the film’s start. “Sully” is a must-see film, filled with a great cast, and an Oscar-caliber performance from Tom Hanks. See this film in theaters. You won’t regret it.

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