Movie Review – ‘Sully’

“Sully” is a powerhouse film that aviation enthusiasts will find deeply satisfying for getting the human factors in flying correct.  Eastwood’s clever technique used to tell this incredible story–in a variety of ways and perspectives–is sensational and the film’s best feature.

– Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

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One of the most difficult challenges a filmmaker endures is telling audiences a true story in which the world already knows its dramatic and surprise ending.  Now take that entire factual account, which only lasted 208 seconds in real life, and put together a fascinating 96-minute film that’s both intellectually and visually stunning.  Using retired airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s own memoir, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, director Clint Eastwood masterfully retells the harrowing conclusion to the 2009 U.S. Airways flight that miraculously makes a water landing in Manhattan’s Hudson River. 

Eastwood does a remarkable job of personalizing “Sully” to moviegoers and air travelers.  Tom Hanks, in his most unrecognizable role since 2000’s “Cast Away”, effortlessly portrays the senior aviator on that fateful morning and harbors the second-guessing that clouds every pilot’s mind after an incident or close call. 

An enthralling script heavy in aviation-speak and a behind-the-scenes look at aircraft investigations reveals the enormous burdens and decision-making placed upon so few with precious little time to react.

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“Sully” successfully goes beyond the “Hero” label pinned to the chest of a man doing what over four decades of experience in the air has taught him.  More importantly, Eastwood discloses the post-traumatic stress disorder and self-doubt experienced by a husband, father, coworker and, yes, pilot nearly 24/7 following the ordeal.  We see a vulnerable flight deck crew’s opinions and memories get tested against a faceless, but more powerful, adversary: cockpit voice & data recorders, computer animations and air traffic control tapes.  Along each radar blip left by Flight #1549 a pragmatic National Transportation Safety Board methodically attempts to get answers to their standard questions, establish a timeline and find out all the facts…regardless of whom or what else may get destroyed along their investigative path.

This film’s greatest attribute is the way in which Eastwood presents us with those stressful 3 minutes and 28 seconds of Cactus Flight 1549.  Like pilots staring at color blind tests looking for the hidden numeral to appear, Eastwood’s sensational optics aren’t fully appreciated until the ending, as all 155 crew and passengers emerge from the icy waters of New York City.  The horrendous sight of cramped, narrow aircraft aisles and seating will make you nod in approval to Eastwood’s laser focus on accuracy.  Likewise, the computer-generated images of the short-lived flight will leave you mesmerized and ready to high-jump anything sitting between you and the theater’s stairs. 

“Sully” is a powerhouse film that aviation enthusiasts will find deeply satisfying for getting the human factors in flying correct.  Eastwood’s clever technique used to tell this incredible story–in a variety of ways and perspectives–is sensational and the film’s best feature.

Look for “Sully” and Tom Hanks to make almost everyone’s 2016 Best Picture and Best Actor lists this January.  And don’t discount Eastwood for a Best Director nomination.  If this movie takes off at the box office, it could find itself on short final ready to land even more awards.

Grade: A

“Sully” is rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.  It’s running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.

© 2016, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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