Tom Hanks stars in Clint Eastwood's stirring true-life tale of heroism
Sully is Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial example of complex American mythmaking. Tom Hanks stars as Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot lauded for the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ in January 2009, when US Airways Flight 1549 lost both engines to a flock of geese and made a textbook-perfect water landing in the middle of New York City with zero loss of life.
Rather than open with the event itself, Sully begins with a nightmare sequence of the manoeuvre going disastrously wrong and Sully awakening in a cold sweat. Without any establishment of the story as it happened, Eastwood dives into the stress of Sully unable to enjoy his hero status in the grip of the mandatory investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the personal self-doubt it caused.
One wonders, in this opening, if Eastwood has gone too far this time in his dour deconstructions of American legends, but such misgivings prove just as unfounded as the cross-examination of Sully himself – Eastwood is a craftsman of exceptional, innate storytelling judgement, and this proves the most suspenseful, character-rich and ultimately redemptive angle to approach the Flight 1549 story.
By the time the reenactment comes, we’re so wound up with a willingness to be surprised by the complications of this tale that it becomes an immediate human drama anew, with personalities we care about, a dense sense of physical danger and an inspiring study in individual professionalism, from the cockpit to the flight crew to the rescue teams and the passengers themselves. Eastwood remains an American master, and if some of the finer details lack finesse, like the plasticky, undergraded digital photography, and the occasional dopey crowd shot, such quibbles are subsumed by the overall emotional whomp.
Sully was the surprise film at London Film Festival
Sully is released by Warner Bros