Review by George M. Thomas
Tom Hanks, background, stars as Chesley Sullenberger and Aaron
Eckhart is Jeff Skiles in SULLY.
Sometimes that works to great effect with films such as UNFORGIVEN and MILLION DOLLAR BABY. Other times, his films could use an emotional push. Think JERSEY BOYS and, now, SULLY.
SULLY, based on the story of U.S. Airway Flight 1549, tells the story of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the pilot who bravely landed a passenger jet on the water of the Hudson River back in 2009.
You’ll read and hear the words “competent” and “dependable” when people talk about Eastwood’s direction in this film. To this writer they mean little more than “meh.” SULLY isn’t a bad film, but it’s story is matter-of-fact, even toned and very “meh” even if it takes significant dramatic license [what film based on true event doesn’t?] that makes one wonder whether other forces are at play.
SULLY, which is based on Sullenberger’s book 'Highest Duty', purports to take us behind the scenes of the investigation that took place in the wake of the pilot’s decision to conduct an emergency landing on the water.
Todd Komarnicki’s script condenses the events of months into the investigation of Sullenberger and his first officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) into a shorter time frame, as an NTSB investigatory board questions – rather harshly at times – their version of events.
That in itself creates incongruities as Sully and his crew do the media circuit while still under the scrutiny of the government. It is, however, one of those situations where a plot hole shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of a good story or, in this case, great performances.
Ultimately that’s what gives SULLY its appeal. Hanks pulls off the everyman charm once again as Sullenberger. He portrays the conflicting feelings within the “hero” with the skill and empathy we’ve come to expect of any of his performances of this heft.
Constantly surrounded by people calling him a hero, which he was, Hanks shows Sullenberger as a guy who isn’t so sure. The incidents of that day play in his mind like a bad movie based on a John Grisham novel and they touch upon every aspect of his life, including his marriage.
Eckhart’s Skiles is steadfast and loyal, providing the anchor that Sully needs to get through the ordeal.
SULLY isn’t perfect. Competent adequately describes it. Go for the acting, the contrived drama is nothing to cheer.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language
Running time: 96 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-4 stars