Sully: Hanks soars once again

​What happens to unlikely heroes after their miraculous deeds?

Academy Award winning director Clint Eastwood seeks to answer this complex question with yet another introspective look at a recent American hero following 2014’s spectacular “American Sniper.”

In “Sully,” Eastwood examines the “hero on the Hudson,” veteran U.S. Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as he constantly relives his 208-second flight from LaGuardia Airport which ended with a forced water landing on the Hudson River. Based on true events, Sully (Oscar winner Tom Hanks) and his first officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are questioned by media and the suspicious National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators in the days immediately following the January 15, 2009 incident.

Told almost exclusively from the perspective of Sully himself, Eastwood’s film forces Sullenberger to relive (and occasionally hallucinate) about the fateful flight, which makes the veteran pilot question whether he made the right decision. 

As the titular hero, Hanks is mesmerizing in his unsettled confusion with Sullenberger’s frequent, yet private emotional breakdowns serving as many of the film’s best moments. While “Sully” drifts into police-procedural territory in the final third as the NTSB investigation wraps up, Hanks elevates average dialogue with his quintessential everyman performance style. Despite his storied career, “Sully” may prove to be Hanks’ defining performance over the latter stages of his career and certainly over the last decade. An Academy Award nomination for his performance would not be out of the question.

Eckhart gives a serviceable, largely unmemorable effort as first officer Skiles, essentially riding shotgun to a career-defining Hanks performance. In a film where so many characters felt authentic, Skiles sticks out as Aaron Eckhart reading the lines given to the character of Skiles rather than Eckhart actually becoming Skiles. However, this isn’t particularly detrimental to the overall success of the film.

Veteran character actress Laura Linney offers a strong supporting performance as Sullenberger’s wife Lorraine. The part is especially difficult as Lorraine is separated from the rest of the cast and only has scenes with her husband over the telephone. Not being able to see and react off your acting partner with their physical presence can be immensely challenging, though Linney handles the role well.  Her performance helps round out Sully’s character and allows Hanks to portray the pilot’s rare emotional releases.

The first film to be shot entirely with IMAX cameras, “Sully” is visually spectacular from start to finish and especially shines in the air during scenes depicting the plane crash. This is approached from a variety of angles and perspectives throughout the film and cinematographer Tom Stern does a terrific job of making each scene feel cohesive and yet fresh at the same time. Reliving the harrowing events over and over will probably make you leery of flying any time soon, however.

Eastwood continues to prove himself to be one of the elite filmmakers of our time with “Sully,” which features Eastwood’s no-frills directorial style and original music. Like so many other Eastwood films, “Sully” plows forward from act to act with solid pacing, picturesque shots and solid acting performances across the board. It’s thanks to Eastwood that planes crash-landing on the Hudson River are shown in the least flashy, blockbuster way possible.

“Sully” should be a shoe-in for several technical awards as the film’s depiction of the plane landing on the Hudson will likely be one of the year’s most visually impressive moments. Academy Award nominations could also be in the cards for Hanks as Best Actor, Eastwood as Best Director and the film for Best Picture depending on how the rest of 2016 plays out.

Led by a career-defining performance from Hanks and impressive cinematography, “Sully” is a sure bet to be an audience favorite and is definitely worth the trip to the theaters.

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