SULLY [2016]

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Directed by Clint Eastwood

Written by Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley SullenbergerJeffrey Zaslow (book)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney


Firstly, thanks to m.brown from Two Dollar Cinema for steering me towards this one. I would have skipped it otherwise.

I’ll admit, I knew nothing about Captain Sullenberger. Yes, the stone I live under casts quite the shadow, and yes I did see him parodied in an American Dad episode (or was it Family Guy?), but I still had no real idea of his story or what he did. They say ignorance is bliss, and in this case it certainly was as I enjoyed every minute of this tight, well-oiled biopic. Also surprising was that this was directed by Eastwood, a man who I vastly prefer as an actor rather than a director.

Appropriately, the film begins with a bang, as Tom Hanks is having a nightmare about a plane crashing into the city, and at other points in the film, we find him hallucinating, seeing the same thing, a plane smashing into city buildings. These are two classic symptoms of post-traumatic-stress-disorder, which is almost certainly what Sullenberger was dealing with after the events of January 15th, 2009.

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Interestingly though, much of the film focuses on the aftermath of his miraculous safe landing in the Hudson River, specifically the investigation into Sullenberger’s mid-flight decision-making, which I found simultaneously shocking and amusing, as Tom Hanks is the perfect actor for this job as he kicks arse not only mid-flight, but also during the investigation.

Perhaps this is due to the post 9/11 atmosphere within US airports, but a board of inquiry wants to analyse every detail of the event, questioning Sully’s decisions, despite the fact that every person on the plane survived.

As they say, ‘only in America!’

I kid, I kid.

Dealing with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), Sully realises that the board is trying to spin the story so that it sounds like he didn’t follow protocol and could have made it back to another airport. They are looking for human error where there is none – he saved the entire goddamned crew and passengers fer chrissakes!!!

Sully pushes the committee to show the computer simulations that suggest Sully was in the wrong, but of course they are classified. The evidence seems to point to human error, but Sully is stubborn and has the gift of the gab. He knows how to fight back with words, and he certainly wont go down without a fight, and he eventually is able to watch the simulations.

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Despite being based on a story we all know the basics of, this movie effectively creates tension – both within the cockpit and out of it – while also making a point about how pilots are treated after such an event, not to mention the uselessness of computer simulations supposedly designed to mimic the circumstances of a crash.

I couldn’t help but laugh as the simulation pilots say “birds” in the most monotone of voices when the flock of geese hit the engines of the plane.

As Sully correctly points out, the human part of the process is thoroughly ignored.

Coping with PTSD, Sully is a guy you instantly want to root for, and this of course is helped by Tom Hanks, who plays the likeable every-man perhaps better than anyone else. Sully doesn’t see himself as a hero, just a man doing his job. But with his career and pension on the line, he needs all the aces up his sleeve as possible to combat the onslaught of accusations in the courtroom.

Again, incredible considering he saved everyone on board. The scenes in the courtroom to determine Sully’s future are memorable and Sully again shows some fight as he tells it like it is, not reigning in his punches.

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The acting across the board is stellar, while the scenes involving the planes look extremely realistic. Perhaps the first movie where I can say that the special FX5.5 beer - no beer top didn’t bother me at all. With a short and snappy runtime, this is over before you know it. It felt 60 minutes long! This is thanks to some extremely tight editing. There are no throwaway scenes and Sully’s wife appropriately takes a back seat to the action, though the scenes she does have are on point, and give us a glimpse of the show unfolding from the outside, from her perspective.

One beer short of a sixer

5/6