Sully (M)

In a Word: Classy


Aaron Eckhardt plays Jeff Skiles and Tom Hanks plays Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in Sully. PICTURE: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

"Narrow in scope, this is a film all about the details and it’s in the details that Sully excels. A lesson in film-making by a master of the art."

It became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson”. The belly landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City on 15th January, 2009, with all 155 on board surviving after both of the plane’s engines were disabled in a bird strike.

Sully tells the story of that flight with a particular focus on Chelsey ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, the plane’s pilot and the man repeatedly described as the ‘hero’ of the incident. It’s a well-crafted film which manages to avoid slumping into a schmaltzy B-grade telemovie, a particular challenge given the subject matter.

Partly that success is due to the cast, in particular, Tom Hanks, who plays Sully, and Aaron Eckhardt, who plays first officer Jeff Skiles (and, to a much lesser degree given her small role, Laura Linney, who plays Sully’s wife Lorrie).

And partly it’s to do with the approach of the writers and director Clint Eastwood which, instead of following the action step-by-step, plunges us straight into the aftermath of the incident and then retells what happened from there.

We get to feel the intensity of the situation facing Sully and Skiles as the National Transportation Safety Bureau turns its spotlight on the incident and soon has Sully second-guessing the decisions he made in the heat of the moment.

And we also experience a sense of the force of the public gaze that turned upon them as everywhere he looks, Sully is hailed a hero and savior – an outcome which, as is noted during the film, is fuelled at least to some degree by that fact that not only is the story good news in a city not known for it but that, in the wake of the horrific events of 9/11, it’s good news that involves people surviving a plane crash.

It’s a role which sits uncomfortably with Sully – after all, as he notes, the fact all 155 survived was a team effort involving not just the plane’s crew but the passengers and rescue workers as well - but one he has to come to terms with.

We don’t get told too much about Sully’s past – no more than a couple of flashbacks, but that’s sort of the point: he’s just an experienced pilot doing his job. And while there’s a touch of an Air Crash Investigations episode as we follow inquiry into what happened, this is essentially a character study.

Of course, the film ends with the obligatory shots of the real people involved and sees Captain Sully noting that there now exists a bond between the 155 on board which he believes will never be broken.

Narrow in scope, this is a film all about the details and it’s in the details that Sully excels. A lesson in film-making by a master of the art.