It’s no secret that director Clint Eastwood has had a lot of trouble coming up with decent projects to take on lately. After “Gran Torino” in 2008, he’s had a string of films (mostly biopics) that have fallen flat or just haven’t properly brought their subject to life, films that have included “Invictus,” “J. Edgar,” “Jersey Boys,” and “American Sniper.” Luckily this hasn’t stopped the great, four-time Oscar-winning filmmaker from soldiering on, choosing as his next project yet another biopic, this time concentrating on the heroic act of Captain Sullenberger. Will this finally be the film to bring his disappointing streak to an end?
On January 15th, 2009, Captain “Sully” Sullenberg (Tom Hanks) and his first officer, Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), were taking off for a regular flight from LaGuardia Airport, when just a few minutes into the flight, their aircraft runs into a flock of birds that renders their engines inoperative. With very few options at hand, the Captain makes the decision to land the plane in the Hudson River, miraculously saving the lives of everyone onboard. Sully is instantly deemed a hero and is interviewed multiple times about the incident by the press. However, he and Skiles also have to face the National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB), who claim that one of the engines may have had enough power to get the plane to an airport runway. As the pressure builds, it’s up to Sully to prove that his extreme decision was the right one.
This was a pretty shocking event when it happened nearly eight years ago. The papers and news broadcasts were filled with reports about the hero pilot who had saved the lives of all 155 people onboard, but what we didn’t seem to hear much about was the behind the scenes investigation that could have been the end of Sully’s piloting career. It’s into this area that Clint Eastwood’s latest film delves, telling us not only about the man and the effect this entire ordeal had on him, but also about the in-depth look into the incident that nearly showed he may have been wrong in his decision to land the craft in the Hudson.
Todd Kamarnicki’s screenplay takes us through the events in a rather by-the-numbers manner, but it tells the story very well, always keeping its attention on Sully and how the situation is taking its toll on his life. Sure, there’s not going to be much in the way of surprises (perhaps other than how the investigation was resolved), but this is one of those incredible stories that you can’t help but get engaged in as the event itself plays out, followed by the tense and compelling aftermath.
Without a doubt, one of the main reasons the film works so well is due to Tom Hanks’ brilliant performance as the titular pilot. We all know how amazing an actor Hanks is, but watching him melt away into Sully is just further proof of it. He juggles the complex feelings that the Captain was going through during this time with the determination to prove that he made the only logical call extremely well, showing us Hanks in a turn that is both vulnerable and powerful. Don’t be surprised at all if he nabs his sixth Oscar nomination for his work here.
Couple that with Eastwood’s sure-handed direction and some top-notch editing from Blu Murray (long-time Assistant Editor for Eastwood, first-time Lead Editor), and you have a well-crafted, well-acted, and engaging telling of this remarkable story. We can also happily add that Eastwood’s streak of letdowns has finally come to an end for now. Sometimes all it takes is for the right story and the right actor to come along, and in the case of “Sully,” the two came together harmoniously for a very satisfying result.
“Sully” arrives on Blu-ray in a 2.4:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of magnificent quality. The picture is amazingly sharp and clear throughout the entire presentation, giving great detail not only to the film’s incredible special effects, but also to each and every smaller scene. The Dolby Atmos audio is equally fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, score, and sound effects in excellent quality. Overall, the film has received outstanding treatment in both areas, leaving you with the best experience possible.
Moment by Moment: Averting Disaster on the Hudson (16 Minutes): A fascinating featurette in which Captain Sullenberg, First Officer Stiles, and air traffic controller Patrick Harten take you through the entire event.
Sully Sullenberger: The Man Behind the Miracle (20 Minutes): A featurette that tells you all about Captain Sullenberger.
Neck Deep in the Hudson: Shooting Sully (20 Minutes): A fantastic featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the making of the film, including how the project began. Also includes lots of footage shot on set and interviews with the cast and crew.
With a fantastic performance from Tom Hanks, skilled direction from Clint Eastwood, and a strong script from Todd Kamarnicki, “Sully” becomes a compelling telling of an incredible true story. It may be a rather by-the-numbers exploration of the events, but it’s told in a very engaging manner, taking you along as it delves into some of the lesser-known areas of the tale. However, perhaps best of all is that it’s truly wonderful to see Eastwood finally bounce back after his seemingly-never-ending lull. Hopefully this is merely the start of his triumphant return.