You will find yourself frantically gripping whichever surface you are currently sitting on as the passengers themselves brace for impact.
Clint Eastwood, the prolific director who is now 86-year-old, tells the most measured, well calibrated story of his career with Sully. This is a film about the extraordinary events of 15 January, 2009, when US Airways Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) was able to make a forced landing onto the Hudson River in the event of his Airbus A320 experiencing double engine failure as it was hit by a flock of birds three minutes after it took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Often, this kind of film indulges in the cheapest possible thrills by dwelling and hyperbolising the particulars of the plane crash and all of the possible, most gruesome scenarios surrounding it. Sully instead, is a methodical but far from plodding procedural that examines the mechanics behind the event, but also subtly surveys the emotional fallout of having experienced such a deeply dramatic life and death situation in which you are the person who holds the lives of one hundred and fifty five souls, quite literally, in your hands.
Hanks, with his usual unerring skill, plays the everyman who finds himself in a very peculiar circumstance where one is viewed as a hero by the public, even while he is being examined closely by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is trying to determine whether he made the right choice in landing on the Hudson instead of trying to return to LaGuardia as he was directed.
The film flashes between Sully dealing with the days and nights immediately after the crash, cutting back and forth to the moments leading up to the plane landing in the Hudson - scenes which are shot so viscerally that you will find yourself frantically gripping whichever surface you are currently sitting on as the passengers themselves brace for impact.
The stories of the people on the plane, Sully himself, his wife Lorraine (played the absolutely wonderful Laura Linney) as she struggles to help him from miles away on the phone, and the reactions of the people around the world who are moved to tears by Sully’s actions are portrayed through a particularly sensitive lense, guided by Eastwood’s unerring sense for quiet drama.
This is a film about a man who did his job quietly but exceptionally, day after day for forty-two years until an instance forced him to concentrate all of his skills into a few seconds of absolute precision, moments highlighted by the talents of an actor like Hanks, really the only person who could have done justice to Sully’s dignity and grace.
Before watching the film I thought I knew exactly what I was in for. Instead, I came away with a newfound understanding of how to make good, quiet cinema, along with an inkling about the character of a good man.