Welcome to Oscar season, everyone.
While Morgan may be the official start to the fall line-up, surely this film can be seen as the beginning of the string of next-level movies that wow us in every way imaginable. This is Awards season, and Sully is a great sign that it is officially upon us again.
Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart are superb in their lead roles, playing Captain Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles, respectively. Helped, in no small part, by Clint Eastwood’s expert direction, this film is made all about the people, how they’re affected by the events of that cold, January day in 2009.
Walking into this film, I’d only the trailers to rely on for frame-of-reference. I remember the events of that day—not as well as 9/11, of course—but I didn’t really pay too much attention to the story when it broke. I thought, for sure, that the first ten minutes or so of the film would be the crash, itself, and the rest would be a run-through of the eighteen-month litigation process that Sullenberger and Skiles endured…which could go either way. That’s not how it happened, in fact; there was a brilliant balance between the events of the day and the long string of hearings that followed, with flashbacks and elaborations adding to certain scenes, where needed. This was a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, devoting attention equally to all aspects throughout the 95-minute run-time, rather than concentrate on one instance or another.
As I said before, this film is a study of the people, humanizing the events that took place on the Hudson. The filmmakers weave a story about people coming together. There’s a devotion to realizing the human reactions that helped in getting all 155 souls home safe, and how a computer—or someone else, other than Sullenberger and Skiles—could’ve gotten it all horribly wrong. The psychological ramifications that Sullenberger faced were evident, and some scenes jarred me with the hallucinations he experienced, about how the skillful landing could’ve easily become another violent air disaster scenario. Watching the film gives a sort of gravitas to the events that went down, how nearly impossible it all was, and yet, how obviously right Sullenberger was for the job that day.
Likewise, the actual hearings—and the scenes in the cockpit of Flight 1549—don’t contain the level of flight jargon that would confuse audiences. I was able to follow pretty well what was going on between the pilots in the cockpit and in what the NTSB examiners were talking about.
Just like in other historical dramas, I love to see the use of real-life in the presentation. There was that in this film, as well, through the use of real photos taken by the first-responders on that day. They’re sprinkled throughout the ending credits, as well as a nice little addition to bring the whole story home (no spoilers). Do stay for the entirety of the credits—you won’t want to miss a bit of the ending.
On the whole, Sully gets a very strong ‘Risk Assessment of *****/ from me, for its skillful presentation of the story as conveyed by Captain Sullenberger, and humanizing elements that make it a true American story.
Next review: Blair Witch