Wednesday 28 September 2016

Film Review: Sully

Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks' Sully is one of the sleeper hits in a rather sleepy September at the cinema.

Remember back in 2009 when that passenger jet was forced to ditch it in the Hudson River following a bird strike after take-off and everyone lived? Pretty incredible story, right? At the time, the actions of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger were heralded as heroic and the bloke was celebrated for his ability to bring the plane down without fatality.

However, an inquest into the incident raised questions about his decision to land on the water, theorising that he could've made it back to the airport with the engines still idling. Had the investigation found that he ultimately made the wrong choice, Sully's entire career and reputation as an airline pilot would've been thrown under the bus - surrounded by a savage media circus, can Captain Sully emerge from the wreckage as a hero or a fool?

Flash-forward to now and this incredible true story has been adapted for the screen with Tom Hanks assuming the role of Sully and Aaron Eckhart playing his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Hanks is great as the seasoned pilot who makes a pivotal split-second decision that eventually engulfs him in a sea of cameras and media spin. That's par for the course though - did you really expect him to be anything less than great? He's Tom Hanks. He's like a warm cup of cocoa by the fire, he always delivers the goods. His 'everyman thrust into danger' character isn't too dissimilar than those we've seen him do before in Apollo 13 and Captain Phillips, so you just know he nails it. Eckhart is pretty good too and damn, he can really rock a moustache.

Laura Linney gets the thankless task of playing Sully's wife Lorraine; she acts opposite a landline for the entirety of the film, not once leaving the warmth of the family home. That being said, you did feel the connection between Hanks and Linney's characters, even if they were only connected via the phone.

Eastwood's direction is some of his best in years too; whilst most of the film is serviceable, bread and butter stuff that mostly operates in boardrooms and hotel rooms, the various retellings of the crash are deceptively good looking through a combination of clever framing and detailed CGI. Shot entirely using IMAX cameras, the film does pop visually, even if the settings themselves aren't hugely exciting.

However, the real winner with Sully isn't the camerawork or the technical elements - it's the screenplay. Rather than telling a conventional, chronological story from point A to point Z, Todd Komarnicki's screenplay chops the event up into smaller nuggets of action before sprinkling them throughout the taut 96 minute runtime. Rather than witnessing the crash in its entirety at the start of the film, we open with Sully already struggling with sleep and reliving the event in his head.

Throughout the film, the inquest into the incident is counterbalanced with numerous retellings of the event itself from differing perspectives; the airhostesses, the rescue crews, the air traffic control guy, passengers who are aboard the plane.

We never see the crash from Sully's perspective (in full) until the very end of the film, a creative decision that works wonders with building tension and keeping those questions about his actions hanging over the film right until the closing scene. Eastwood examines the nitty gritty details of the event too, crafting the most visceral and affecting airplane scene since United 93.

The Verdict: 8/10

Sully is a really solid drama that takes a memorable true story and spins it a way that'll keep you guessing. Clever pacing keeps the film engaging even if you think you know the outcome, whilst stellar performances from Hanks and Eckhart keeps the film grounded (pun intended).

Sully is in cinemas across Australia now


  1. Couldn't agree more, Rhys. Excellent performances and fantastic storytelling made for a surprisingly compelling film.

    I was gripped from beginning to end!

    Great review!

    1. Thanks mate! I was surprisingly gripped by this one too.

  2. Second glowing review of this I read today and I love Hanks so I'll definitely give this a go~!

    1. Absolutely, it's a great showcase for Hanks' range as an actor :)



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