Movie Review: ‘SULLY’ – A crash course in the beauty of humanity

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James Cole Clay // Film Critic

SULLY | 96 min | PG-13
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura LinneyAnna Gunn and Mike O’Malley

Clint Eastwood has his critics. His films, while tend to be dramatically and technically exceptional, at times lack nuance. Even so, the director has a filmmaking style that runs parallel to his calm, controlled bravado that he brought to the camera time and time again.

His latest, SULLY, is, on the other hand, a nuanced American story that serves as a marvelous celebration of humanity with one of the best films to hit the screen this year. (SULLY is already catching fire in the early days of awards chatter.) It also doesn’t hurt that Tom Hanks delivers yet another astounding role to his résumé.

The film chronicles the January 15, 2009 US Airways flight piloted by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Hanks) and Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). It was the plane that successfully landed in New York City’s Hudson River, saving all 155 passengers in the process. The crisis only lasts a total of 208 seconds, yet this is only the first layer of drama to be peeled back over this unassuming act of heroism.

In the days following the trauma, Sully is thrusted into the media spotlight, being universally lauded as a hero. However, he’s also being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, who are seemingly hell-bent on uncovering any discrepancy in his protocols.

Sully (Hanks) coming under intense fire from the media. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Sully (Hanks) coming under intense fire from the media. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

His numb stares during interviews with David Letterman and Katie Couric show there’s more on Sully’s mind than basking in his own glory. A white-haired Hanks plays Sullenberger with a quiet complexity that grounds the pilot in a haze of his own thoughts, which at times can be the most menacing for any human being.

Todd Komarnicki’s screenplay combined with exceptional editing work from Blu Murray (assistant editor of many of Eastwood’s last few films) slow down the frenzy to Sully’s level; we’re able to process information at his pace, get into his thoughts, and this, in turn, gives us the opportunity to simply slow down and think. At one point, Sully says, “Anything is possible if you’re not in a rush”– a simple yet profound line of dialogue that can be applied from the trivial things in life, such as running a red light, all the way to landing a plane with two failed engines.

This is Eastwood’s most complex work in a decade. He separates the firestorm of press that caught national attention from the man himself. Sullenberger has many quiet moments to himself, where he calls his wife Lorraine (Laura Linney), barely showing any emotion. He made a commitment to do his job and he follows through admirably at every turn. It’s a touching to think that every person on Earth will have a moment no matter how small, where they are asked to stick to their obligations.

SULLY is an excellent film that celebrates humanity, as way of having disparate individuals come together for a singular cause. This is a hopeful film that just asks us to slow down a bit, think before acting, listen before speaking and to trust your instincts.

SULLY opens nationwide on Friday (9/9).

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