All I knew about Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is that he safely landed a plane in the Hudson River and became an overnight hero as a result. Naturally, there is more to the story and Clint Eastwood tells it in typically forthright fashion in Sully. Working from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki that hops back and forth in time, we learn how the airborne crisis came about, how Sully and his first officer (Aaron Eckhart) responded, and why they were the subject of a harsh investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Eastwood is coming off one of his all-time best efforts, American Sniper, but anyone who remembers Hereafter knows that he’s no stranger to visual effects. I’ve never forgotten the harrowing tsunami in that movie, and once you see Sully you’ll know what it’s like to be in the cockpit of a plane that makes a forced landing—on an icy river.
But the director has another ace up his sleeve: his leading man, Tom Hanks. There are no weak links in the cast (and the film gives Eckhart one of his best roles in several years) but Hanks embodies all the qualities we look for in an American hero. Chesley Sullenberger may not be a saint, but he is a man of long experience as a pilot, thoroughly dedicated to his job. He knows what it means to be responsible for hundreds of human lives and never loses sight of that.
Just as we knew that the Titanic sank before that film came out, we know that Sullenberger remains a heroic figure for what he did in 2009. This compelling drama shows us why and how…and pays proper tribute to the men and women of New York who joined forces to make sure 155 people came away from a near-disaster safe and sound. Sully himself may be stoic, but I found the finale of this film to be surprisingly emotional.