The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley, Katie Couric, Holt McCallany, Wayne Bastrup
Rated: PG-13 (some peril and brief strong language)
By Matt Greene
Eastwood’s directorial efforts are undeniably skillful dramas full of human resilience. Sully is no different, and may be his best in years. For some, that may be great news; for me, that’s not saying much. Completely lacking in dramatic subtlety, Sully still somehow feels oddly distant and cold. On the other hand, its non-scifi-action-superhero-franchise thrills and intrigue are definitely a welcome reprieve after a long summer. Like an airline bag of peanuts, Sully’s far from a delicious meal, yet it certainly helps pass the time.
It’s the harrowing true-story of a commercial-pilot-turned-national-hero successfully landing a plane on the Hudson River, saving everyone on board and potentially hundreds of NYC citizens. It’s a stoic movie about a stoic man who is thrust into excitement. Playing the titular “Stoic”…uh, I mean “Sully”…is Hanks, who has taken a step-down in intensity, complexity and effectiveness from his other real-life-hero-on-the-water role in Captain Phillips. Instead of studying the psychology of an every-man experiencing sudden stardom through immense trauma, it hits fairly predictable biopic beats with on-the-nose and corny dialogue and performances.
Luckily, the centerpiece plane crash and subsequent rescue is pretty fantastic. The great mixture of high thrills and drama told with grounded realism gives it a surprisingly honest and non-glorified portrayal. It’s no accident this was released on 9/11, as that horrendous day played such an integral part in what made Sully such a beloved figure. People in NY buildings watching a plane fly low through their city, followed by the familiar humanity in the rescue boats, it’s hard not to be moved. Those beautiful moments propel an otherwise bland movie that your grandparents will surely love.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
Clint Eastwood’s “Sully”, following the aftermath of the famous forced water landing of a plane in the Hudson River and the pilot with the instincts, experience, and skill to make that decision and landing, is a competent film about competency. That much should be conceded at minimum. Eastwood, like Sully, is instinctual, experienced, and skillful in the technical aspects of his job. He has 38 directing credits to his name, including some of the most acclaimed films of all time, but the 86 year-old has become increasingly stale in his storytelling.
For decades, he made films that questioned the existence of a hero; and because most of his early films were westerns, Eastwood became rightfully synonymous with the moral dubiousness—or, at least, the moral complexity—of ‘The American Hero Myth’. He didn’t offer simple men with simple answers. He didn’t settle for a straight-forward John Wayne-esque cowboy saving the good guys from the bad guys. Instead he made classics like “High Plains Drifter”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, “Pale Rider”, and “Unforgiven”, each of which inverted that traditional fable in some way. But now it seems like lame hero stories are all he’s interested in making.
Eastwood would likely defend his portrayal of Capt. Sully by pointing to any number of times we see him struggling to get a grip on what happened and the efficacy of his role, and indeed the scenes following Sully present a degree of moral ambiguity, even if they lack dramatic propulsion. It’s the scenes spliced in between that reinforce his valiant heroism: a distressed wife, a rapacious review board, thankful passengers, etc., each mere tropes pretending to be characters. Eastwood has lost his identity.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars