Produced by Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall,
Tim Moore, Allyn Stewart
Written by Todd Komarnicki
Based on Highest Duty by
Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart,
Laura Linney, Anna Gunn,
Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany,
Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan,
Jerry Ferrara, Molly Hagan,
Max Adler, Sam Huntington
In dramatizing the true life heroics of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s historic Hudson River landing on January 15, 2009, 86-year-old Clint Eastwood delivers pure, meat-and-potatoes filmmaking that defines sheer professionalism.
It makes sense in a film that certainly covers a fair deal of thematic ground in its tight 96 minutes (a miracle for a Clint film), but in the end, Sully is all about business—getting the damn job done.
It’s encapsulated, through and through, in Tom Hanks’ masterful performance as the title character. During the thrilling recreation of the aircraft’s bird-strike, engine blow-out and subsequent river landing, Hanks’ eyes are fixated on nothing more than accomplishing what he needs to do. He knows he needs to land the plane. He knows he won’t be able to make it make to an airport runway. He knows they’re landing in the Hudson.
But most of all, he knows he needs to deliver each of the 155 people aboard the plane safely back to their families. In perhaps Hanks’ strongest moment in the film, he is told that all 155 people have been accounted for, alive and well. His relief is so palpable that we exhale in unison with him. He had one job to do, and by all means, he got it done.
Sully highlights the perilous 208 seconds of this event—two different times in fact, both presented in separate contexts—as well as the aftermath that surfaced, between the media circus and investigations performed by the by-the-book hearings committee. This committee, led by fine supporting performances from Mike O’Malley and Anna Gunn, insists that Sully could have landed the plane on a runway. But Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (a great Aaron Eckhart) know otherwise. They were there, and no matter what the simulations say, these men know they accomplished what needed to be done.
But don’t call them heroes.
As Sully tells Katie Couric (playing herself) in an interview, “I don’t feel like a hero. I was just doing my job.”—again, highlighting the recurring theme of Eastwood’s latest film, and so many others to come before it. If anything, the hero here is Clint himself. Eastwood is a fine, fine filmmaker who delivers incredibly polished and crafted works regularly. Even the worst Eastwood film is leaps and bounds above the best that others have to offer.
But, like Sully, Eastwood would likely reject the term “hero” bestowed upon him. He’s just doing his job.