Review - Sully
I am so glad I watched this film after I left the LaGuardia airport from New York and not before. I'm already scared to death of flying in planes so this film really would have sent me over the edge. Now that that's out of the way, was Clint Eastwood's latest film about the "Miracle on the Hudson" any good? Yes, I'd say so.
'Sully' follows Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger before, during and after the 2009 emergency landing on the Hudson river. The film focuses primarily on an investigation into the legal and moral ramifications of Sully's decision to land the plane in the Hudson rather than try to fly it back to the airport.
There are certain pit-falls a filmmaker could make based off of an event that only lasted a few minutes. Eastwood manages to stretch the story in a way that kept the proceedings engaging and warranted a full-length picture. However, the way this film is cut is both a benefit and a detriment to the pacing. The film is told through the eyes and mind of Sully after the event took place and not before. That means there's lots of flashbacks...in fact there's probably more time spent in flashbacks than in the film's present time. I know the reason for this decision; the plane crash is the selling piece of the film, and through flash-backs you can show many different aspects and perspectives of the crash. For me, it did keep the film moving along at a pretty quick clip, but it also was a bit jarring when these very expansive flashbacks would end and I had forgot where Sully had been and what had happened in the present time before his mind was triggered by said flashback. Still, it's a simple enough story and it doesn't take too long to catch back up.
Tom Hanks, who plays the titular character, is obviously one of the reasons this film gets by with a pass. He's an exceptionally under-stated actor who never tries to swing his weight around in desperation for an Oscar. He gives a subtle and nuanced performance as Sully and despite the fact that he's one of the most recognizable actors, you still believe that he's this every-day pilot with an enormous weight upon his shoulders. Aaron Eckhart also does a great job here, playing the admirably loyal and supportive co-pilot, Jeff Skiles. Though the actors are great, there are some typical spots of unneeded expository dialogue that any everyday moviegoer could have figured out on their own without Eastwood spelling it out for them.
Despite the unneeded exposition and a few editing issues, I did feel like this film struck all the right chords thematically. Sully effectively conveys the sheer gravity of the situation and I admired that Eastwood never tried to make it anything more than it was. It's also filmed very competently; every shot is in focus and is presented in a palatable way. I saw the film in 2D IMAX and it played well on the huge screen, even if some of the CGI was quite noticeable in some of mid-flight plane shots. The music by Christian Jacob was also appropriately dialed-down; a bombastic Zimmer score really would have ruined the spirit of a film like this.
The plane crash itself, though seen through flashbacks, is actually quite effectively conceived. My palms were not spared of nervous sweat during the planes descent towards the Hudson. It may have effected me more based simply upon the fact that flying freaks me out and every time I'm on a plane I get that impending sense of doom. Nevertheless, it got me tensed up, which it gets points for, even if not every shot looked photo-realistic.
Clint Eastwood's films as of late, while mostly good, have had a tendency to try and spell things out for the audience quite literally and Sully is no different. There's also that nagging question of "would this have played better if it had told the story in order?" to ponder. That being said, Sully thrives on the strength of its performances, for the most part looks great and doesn't really have any dull moments. In the end, Sully is an effective yarn that hits all of the beats that it needed to without really excelling past them.