Sully is a triumph for Clint Eastwood, a film that challenges the perceptions of a hero while demonstrating the personal consequences of such an event. Eastwood’s films are known for tackling real life figures and bringing them down to a human level, making the audience look at them as normal people caught in extraordinary circumstances. But while his films are known for being distinctly American, Eastwood grasps at a universal theme about coming together in the face of tragedy and the traits that define a hero.
The film follows Captain Sully Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), pilots on a U.S. Airways flight from New York. After a flock of birds crash and destroy their engines, the pilots are forced to make a landing on the Hudson River. But while their heroics are celebrated, they’re also questioned when an investigative crew examines the potential mistakes made in the fateful landing.
It goes without saying that Tom Hanks is extraordinary here; Hanks approaches the role as reserved, contained, and noble, making his quiet actions and simple gestures indicative of greater emotional torment. But the unsung hero of the film is Aaron Eckhart, who’s more brash character serves as the percent foil and partner for Hanks’s Sully. While Hanks’s work will most certainly draw award season buzz due to his star power, it’s Eckhart’s work that should be equally celebrated, as the two men’s screen chemistry is powerful and effective.
Eastwood constructs the film unconventionally, yet each flashback and dream sequence feels necessary in the character progression. It’s incredible how we’re able to get within Sully’s head, and placing the film’s big set piece in the middle of the film allows for it to be more emotionally resonant due to our previously established emotional connection with Sully. The film’s finale is also completely riveting, showing a brilliant procedural breakdown of events juxtaposed with a beautiful monologue from Hanks.
Eastwood highlights the tension of the story, but it’s also a story of heroism and humanism. While Sully is obviously the focus, the attention paid to supporting characters make for a more complete depiction of events. It’s a emotionally challenging and powerful experience, another film to add to Eastwood’s impressive body of work. Grade: -A