In 2009, I remember hearing about a plane that successfully managed an emergency landing in the Hudson River. It was an uplifting piece of news that I never really gave much thought to. Then I watched Sully… and everything changed.
Skilfully directed by Clint Eastwood, the biographical drama explores the complex aftermath as the “heroic” pilot of the plane, Chesley Sullenberger, struggled to make sense of the traumatic ordeal while juggling a media avalanche and a critical inquiry board. A lesser director would have collapsed under the film’s weight and aviation lingo, but Eastwood successfully keeps the story moving and compelling the whole way through. It also helps that the film’s cinematography is breathtaking, and the musical score is haunting in all the right places.
Of course Sully wouldn’t be half as engrossing if it wasn’t for Tom Hanks’ extraordinary performance. Undergoing a complete transformation, Hanks brings the brave pilot to life with every nuance and mannerism. The actor is in every single frame, and he carries the whole thing with his engaging charisma and magnetic energy. If Hanks isn’t nominated for an Academy Award this season, it would be a grave oversight.
But let’s be clear, this is not an easy film to watch. The crash landing itself is showcased numerous times from different perspectives, and every detail of the harrowing detail is powerfully realized. Not only do these sequences keep you on the edge of your seat, they’re emotionally distressing, expertly reproducing the traumatizing effects of the ordeal. In fact, it’s a true achievement that the film manages to captivate you AND unsettle you so effectively despite the fact that we know all the plane’s passengers and crew made it out alive. Wow!
Headlined by one hell of an Oscar-worthy performance, Sully is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Highly recommended.