On Jan. 15, 2009, 100 seconds after leaving LaGuardia Airport, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 lost both of its engines at a lower altitude than any other jet in history. Two-hundred and eight seconds later it made a forced water landing on the Hudson River. One-hundred and fifty-five people were rescued from the frigid waters. If it had not been for Captain “Sully” Sullenberger, everyone on board may have died in the crash. There is, however, the possibility that what Sully did was wrong, for further investigation revealed it was possible for him to land safely back at LaGuardia. If it can be proven that Sully was wrong, he loses his wings. Was Sully a hero, or was he mistaken?
Clint Eastwood’s latest biopic depicts these actual events. Instead of dramatizing or heightening the action of the story, “Sully” keeps a deep focus on realism and humanity. Because of this, “Sully” never feels like a movie. It is a true experience. It deserves your attention, and it is worth seeing in theatres. From takeoff to splash down, “Sully” continuously uncovers and opens up the genuine “Miracle on the Hudson.”
The most prominent elements in this film are the actors. Tom Hanks brings heart and life into any film he’s in, and his portrayal of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger handily deserves a place next to his best roles, among which are Chuck Noland, James B. Donovan and Forrest Gump. One of the most interesting details in this film is the subtlety of Hanks’ interactions with the various characters. He is friendlier with some than others, but he treats everyone with equally high respect. It is the mark of a great actor when they have the ability to bring out the best in everyone in the scene.
The script blends dramatic realism in a dark situation with perfectly-timed humor. In a film such as this it would have been easy to glorify the special effects, to focus on the crash itself and get away with making an average movie. However, “Sully” makes the daring and admirable choice of keeping the focus on the people. The screenplay is centered on the lives involved in the landing of flight 1549, with its cornerstone being Captain “Sully” Sullenberger.
The visual scope of “Sully” is engrossing. Every frame consistently drew my eyes to the screen. Since it was shot on IMAX cameras, the wider aspect ratio invites viewers into the experience of the landing, and thus magnifies the impact of being able to say “all 155 passengers survived.”
There is one setback to this film: it is told in an uncommon nonlinear fashion with past events playing out as memories. These memories are triggered by stimuli, and they can last anywhere from five to 2o minutes. Though the return from memories to present can feel sudden and jarring, this does not take away from the overall feel of the movie; rather, it gives “Sully” a unique aesthetic separating it from other biopics.
Beyond its spectacular performances, stand-out cinematography and impeccable direction, “Sully” is truthful. I have listened to the CVR recordings from the cockpit of Flight 1549, and they are verbatim to the dialogue in this film. The main reason “Sully” is directly founded in the reality of the events is because Captain Sullenberger himself was heavily involved in the making of the film. In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Sully stated, “What I really wanted this film to have was a real undercurrent of the importance of our common humanity, and I think it’s there.”
For those of you who enjoy the art of cinema and the profound truths that can be told through it, “Sully” is a film to be cherished and witnessed on the big screen.
For an unedited version of this review, visit jfmviews.blogspot.com.