Tom Hanks stars as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger — the pilot who successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the middle of the icy Hudson River in January of 2009 after a gaggle of Canada geese flew into both of the planes’ engines. It was called the Miracle on the Hudson and the image of dozens of passengers standing on the wings of the plane during its evacuation is forever burned into our collective memories.
So the question then becomes how do you make a compelling interesting movie about something where we already know the ending from a big news event that happened not too long ago? We know that the passengers and crew of Flight 1549 survived and that the pilot became hailed as a hero. Director Clint Eastwood knows the answer to that question is you cast Tom Hanks as Sully.
Hanks is already getting some early Oscar buzz—and for good reason. He carries “Sully” with an emotionally powerful performance. But really, when has Hanks let us down?
Eastwood really takes a minimalist approach — more of a recreation of the crash and the NTSB investigation that follows. Certainly sprinkled with dramatic license, the movie doesn’t get bogged down with melodrama. The focus stays squarely on Sully himself and there’s some nice work here by Aaron Eckhart as co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles. I liked the stripped-down approach, and even the piano-driven soundtrack composed by Eastwood himself stays consistent with the overall tone of the film. This movie reminded me a bit of United 93 — Paul Greengrass’ movie about the hijacked flight that crashed into a Pennsylvania field on 9/11.
Eastwood certainly hasn’t lost his touch. Sully — not unlike its namesake — isn’t flashy, but at only 96 minutes it’s efficient and effective. I find it interesting that Eastwood has now directed 35 feature films and this movie has the shortest runtime of them all. Most of his movies have barely come in under two hours, but sometimes shorter is better and this is one of those cases since the pacing stays on track.
Adults have been starved this summer in the drama category and this movie delivers.