Sully: Miracle on the Hudson

 

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A real-life drama from 2009 provides Tom Hanks with an ideal role in the wake of 

Captain Phillips.

 
Sully I  Sully II

The US Airways Flight 1549 and Tom Hanks

  

Two great names come together here: Clint Eastwood in his capacity as director and Tom Hanks as lead actor. Working from a screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, Eastwood is here telling the story of Captain Chesley Sullenberger who, after a flying career that had already lasted 42 years, found fame in 2009 when he successfully landed a plane on the Hudson River. The aircraft had suffered a bird strike which had put two engines out of action and Sully - as he was known - ignored instructions to return to La Guardia and brought down the packed plane without any loss of life.

 

New York immediately acclaimed Sully a hero and the media called it the Miracle of the Hudson, but the authorities threatened to turn this on its head. It was suggested that Sully had been wrong when deciding that the aircraft would not make it back to the airport and that, by acting as he did, he had destroyed a plane and risked the lives of his 155 passengers. The film plunges in with what we take to be the flight in question but which proves to be Sully's nightmare imagining of a plane crashing. What this reveals is that, although Sully disputed the accusations, the fact that his triumph had come about against the odds left him pondering whether or not his instincts had been right. 

 

Opting for a realistic tone not far removed from that adopted by Paul Greengrass in his film United 93 (2006), Eastwood's film has a large cast yet concentrates to a marked degree on Sully and his first officer (Aaron Eckhart) - even the ever reliable Laura Linney has what is little more than a cameo playing Sully's anxious wife. Indeed, good as Eckhart is, Sully is absolutely centred on Tom Hanks in the title role and it suits his mature persona admirably (a view not challenged when we glimpse the real Sully and his wife during the end credits). At its best Sully: Miracle on the Hudson brings to mind Hollywood movies of the 1950s that were not afraid to be literate and serious as they eschewed fictional frills. What is a weakness here is the structure imposed by the screenplay which thrusts various flashbacks upon us, sometimes breaking them up and feeling rather clumsy in the process. Also the music score, often absent, feels at odds with the near-documentary approach when it is brought in. But these are minor reservations and, although the preceding work in Eastwood's oeuvre American Sniper is on balance the more rewarding film, this is a very able piece of work and one that fits Hanks like a glove. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O'Malley, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan, Ann Cusack, Jane Gabbert, Molly Hagen, Holt McCallany, Chris Bauer, Patch Darragh.

Dir Clint Eastwood, Pro Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Allyn Stewart and Tim Moore, Screenplay Todd Komarnicki based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow, Ph Tom Stern, Pro Des James J. Murakami, Ed Blu Murray, Music Christian Jacob and The Tierney Sutton Band and Clint Eastwood, Costumes Deborah Hopper.

 

Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/Malpaso/Flashlight Films-Warner Bros.
96 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 2 December 2016. Cert. 12A.