Directed by Clint Eastwood, Sully: Miracle on the Hudson depicts the miraculous events of 2009 where Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles successfully landed a damaged passenger jet in the Hudson River, and the fallout of a near catastrophy.
Tom Hanks tackles the lead role of the pilot affectionately known as Sully, with Aaron Eckhart playing his co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Soon after launch on a cold January day, the passenger jet the pair are flying suffers a bird strike taking out two of their engines, leaving them with the task of trying to safely land the plane. With conditions against them, and the jet badly damaged, Sully makes the difficult decision to make a water landing in the Hudson River. Despite saving all 155 souls aboard the jet, the decision making of the pilots comes under scrutiny by the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) and the pair find the resulting media attention and fame overwhelming.
True story adaptations litter the archives of film, extraordinary events providing the perfect foil for dramatic film experiences. Sully is the latest film to bring the drama of a recent true story to the silver screen, and dramatise it does. The fateful flight that features in the film lasted only six minutes, and the depiction of it is featured throughout, but the rest of the story is comprised of what came after the flight. Sleepless nights, endless interviews, and more importantly a grilling of the pilots by the NTSB who seemingly look to place the blame on those responsible for saving the lives of those on board. It’s the type of film that stirs your emotions, as you shake your fist at the powers that be for picking on the little man. As good as the film is at doing that, it has a significant problem in that it’s villainous portrayal of the NTSB is wide of the mark.
The events post flight did not quite occur like they were depicted in Sully, which actually hangs like a stormy cloud over the film. We shouldn’t be surprised, it’s classic Hollywood embellishment more interested in monetary gain than honest story telling. In fact, the more I write the more infuriating it is that such a widely covered event can be contorted for all the wrong reasons, especially when they didn’t need to. The story of the event itself is remarkable enough. However coming to the rescue, just like his character. is a truly astounding one two combination of terrific acting from Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart. Though the latter is good, the former is brilliant. With wonderfully subtle and focused acting Hanks pulls off one of the finest performances of his career.
In IMAX it has a beautifully crisp image and scenery that devour every inch of the cinema screen. Though Sully plays like your typical man versus ‘the man’ narrative, and the fabricated characterisation of the NTSB getting in the way of an honest story, it is still an astute film with a mesmerising performance from its lead.