In January 2009, when US Airways pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) manages to glide his stricken flight 1549 safely along the Hudson River, after flying into a flock of geese, he is hailed by the public as a hero, having saved the lives of all 155 passengers and crew on board. However, even as Sully is heralded for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation is unfolding that threatens to destroy his reputation and his career. (Based on a true story.)
Review by Louise Keller:
Clint Eastwood's Sully captures far more than the tension and urgency of US Airways Flight 1549's miraculous emergency water landing on the Hudson River in 2009, it also paints a multi-layered portrait of the Captain whose calm, instant reflexes and actions saves the lives of all 155 souls on-board. Based on Captain Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger's book that recounts the events, the film also canvasses the complex aftermath during the investigation that follows, when the media adulation is countered by accusations that he made an error of judgment. Of course the casting of Sully is paramount and it is hard to imagine anyone better than Tom Hanks, whose innate sense of decency shines unfiltered, to don the heroic Captain's jacket. Tense with a high emotional impact, this is a film you should not miss.
The beauty of Todd Komarnicki's screenplay is that it manages the emotional highs and lows to perfection, enabling us to get a real sense of being there as Sully tries to separate the reality of what has happened from the surreal spotlight in which he finds himself. We have to wait about 30 minutes before the key sequence which we are keenly anticipating.
Eastwood meticulously establishes the scene. We are at the airport when Sully makes his way to the plane to join his first officer Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart, excellent). We see the passengers: the three latecomers scrambling to their seats; the disabled elderly woman; the woman with a baby; the flight attendants. We are in the cockpit at the moment when multiple bird strikes take out the plane's two engines. My heart was in my mouth as the events unfold - the speed in which everything happens is breathtaking. The thing that stands out above all else is Sully's calmness as he takes control of the uncontrollable during the critical 24 minutes. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the passengers are instructed to brace for the crash landing in the river in New York's freezing weather conditions. Evacuation follows. 'No one dies today,' says one of the rescue workers.
Laura Linney is well cast as Sully's wife Lorraine - she is the first person Sully calls, when all passengers have been safely evacuated and the water police are at hand. Then comes the aftermath, the tense days that follow, when scrutiny plays its hand in the credibility stakes.
This is a story whose ending we know, so it is up to Eastwood to ensure the drama sizzles at every turn and tension is maintained throughout - like Sully's prioritized anxious wait to hear the result of the passenger count. The film is another superb addition to Eastwood's body of work and at the grand age of 86, Eastwood too, is a hero in my book.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
How many times can you show that extraordinary Hudson River landing in a single movie? It's the most dramatic visual moment of the story, so once is clearly not enough. But if you are a smart filmmaker, you can show it several times, always with good reason and from anew angle and still retain its power. But that's not all that Clint Eastwood manages: perhaps more importantly, he reveals the real drama behind the scenes that underpins the full story. The post mortem, as it were, in which the Air Transport Safety Board picks apart the entire incident and investigates whether the captain could have in fact landed the plane successfully at one of two nearby airports, including La Guardia from where it took off just moments before the flock of geese were sucked into the two engines.
Based on the autobiographical book by Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, Todd Komarnicki's screenplay is an economical and focused work, which Eastwood turns into a gripping film. His casting eye is impeccable, with Tom Hanks as Sully, the confident but never cocksure pilot with 42 years of flying on his wings. The characterisation seeps through as we follow his actions and reactions throughout the cockpit drama and the one in the hearings investigating his actions.
The latter have the quality of a high class courtroom drama, while the former is tantalising with its mass of detail, so even though we know the ending (or should that be the landing), we are glued to the screen. Aaron Eckhart is impressive as the junior pilot Jeff Skiles, and Laura Linney brings her unique sensitivities to the role of Sully's wife Lorraine.
Anna Gunn and Mike O'Malley are important supports as members of the investigating Board, attracting our irritation when they set out to prove Sully was at fault. Sully himself has nightmares about the incident, though he never doubts the necessity of his high risk decision. Eastwood loves heroes, and he makes sure this one is fully recognised.
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CAST: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Mike O'Malley, Sam Huntington, Chris Bauer, Autumn Reeser, Jeff Kober, Holt McCallany, Tracee Chimo, Valerie Mahaffey, Max Adler, Rob Kolodjay, Jeremy Luke
PRODUCER: Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Tim Moore, Allyn Stewart
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
SCRIPT: Todd Komarnicki, (book by Chesley Sullenberger, Jeffrey Zaslow)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern
EDITOR: Blu Murray
MUSIC: Christian Jacob
PRODUCTION DESIGN: James J. Murakami
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 8, 2016