It’s a lot more than just a disaster film without a disaster.
Clint Eastwood delivers a tense and uplifting account of the heroic events that took place in New York on January 15th 2009 in the film Sully: Miracle on the Hudson.Flight 1549 was scheduled to fly from LaGuardia airport NY to Charlotte, North Carolina. However this routine flight was cut abruptly short when a flock of geese flew directly into the airplane’s path causing Captain Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles to perform an emergency landing in the Husdon River. Sully picks up right after this miraculous landing in which all 155 passengers and crew members survived in what could have been a devastating event. But just how do you create a whole film based on three and a half minutes of actual flight time? This is what director Clint Eastwood and his writer set out to do and they are able assisted by their star. In a perfect piece of casting Tom Hanks plays Sully as only he can, with a head of grey hair and matching moustache that genuinely resembles the man himself.Hanks is understated in the role, effortlessly portraying the part of the heroic captain. Having successfully completed the impossible, Sully finds himself caught up in the middle of a media frenzy, with paparazzi flocking outside his hotel and on his front lawn at home where his wife, played by Laura Linney, and children are. Everyone wants a piece of the action but Sully has bigger things to contend with than just giving interviews. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating Sully’s emergency landing and are disputing the actions of the Captain and his First Officer. Through a series of what seem to be interrogations Sully and Skiles are forced to justify their actions and despite all crew and passengers surviving what otherwise could have been a fatal crash landing, they risk losing not only their jobs but their pensions as well.
This relatively short and concise film really succeeds in giving an insight into the mindset of the pilots, crew and passengers and subtly builds the tension throughout. The audience are thrown right bang into the middle of the action, so to speak, as Sully’s imagination shows what could have happened had he and Skiles not acted swiftly and calmly. Through a series of flashbacks we are given insight into Sully’s background and his abilities and are shown from the perspective of the passengers and onlookers just how terrifying this short flight was. Director Clint Eastwood recruited many of the actual people who were part of the rescue and the onlookers who saw the plane head into the Husdon River. By doing this there is a definite sense of realism and urgency which contribute to the overall feel of hope and resilience to the film. Much of the film was shot on location in New York City which really grounds the film in its surroundings and brings into focus the history and the devastating effects this incident could have created had it not been for the fast thinking of the pilots.
The screenplay for Sully was written by Todd Komarnicki based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. Eastwood is reunited with many of the people he’d worked with before; director of photography Tom Stern and production designer James J. Murakami who both worked with Eastwood on The Changeling. The music, by Christian Jacob and The Terney Sutton Band, really intensifies an already intense situation with it’s subtle notes and general feel of optimism and bravery. Eastwood, Tierney Sutton and J.B. Eckl wrote the song ‘Flying Home’ which is played over the end credits as the real Sully and some of the survivors of Flight 1549 are reunited making for an emotional and touching addition to the film.
It’s the small details that make the audience aware of the impact this could have had on everyone from the passengers to the bystanders
Aaron Eckhart takes on the role of First Officer Jeffery Skiles and like Hanks, not only physically fits the role but also plays the part with an honest and sensitive quality befitting of the actual Skiles. Eckart is the somewhat vocal and outspoken half of the duo, a contrast to Sully’s soft and quiet demeanour. Linney’s role in the film is relatively small but effective nonetheless. Appearing only through phone calls to her husband Linney is great as the strong wife putting on a brave face to support her husband through a difficult and strained time. It’s through these phone calls we really get to see what an impact this whole situation is having on Sully and it shows how he is just a normal, everyday type of guy who despite doing the unthinkable was only doing his job to ensure the safety and survival of everyone on board his flight.
With so much upheaval and uncertainty in the news of late, Sully is a refreshing story of hope with it’s incredible happy ending. It’s both emotional and intense and succeeds in immersing the audience into what happened on January 15th 2009 and also in showing what could have happened had it not been for the two brave pilots who had only met days before.
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