Clint Eastwood’s best film in many years, something that ended up taking me out of nowhere after the many resentments I’ve had towards some of his more recent entries in a directorial career that has spanned more than 40 years already. It pleases me to say that not only is Sully a good film, but also a great one at that, something that I was waiting long for ever since Unforgiven – the last film of his which I would ever truly call great. Initially, I was skeptical that it would be another biopic going by the numbers and out there to grab Oscar attention, but to my surprise I got something else: one that would use the framing in order to be something more. It was simply what I would have wanted from Clint Eastwood in a while after having rather mixed towards negative feelings regarding his films post Letters from Iwo Jima.
The opening scene of Sully hints at where Clint Eastwood has clearly intended something much more out of what may appear as a conventional biopic. We are told the true story of Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, a pilot who miraculously landed a plane on the Hudson River without any casualties after the engines have been lost from flying into a flock of Canadian geese. This outline begins simply, but it is what Clint Eastwood intended to depict that ends up making Sully stand out when placed amongst many other recent biopics. From this framing alone, it goes to show how something all the more clever is set to come as it continues moving along.
It is from after the events of the miraculous plane landing whereSully finds its power: the effect of PTSD upon an ordinary figure who is still attempting to catch up with the fact that his act of bravery has resulted in him being regarded as a hero for many. Eastwood explores the effects that heroism places upon one’s mental health as he keeps his focus on Hanks’s representation of Capt. Chelsey Sullenberger, and how it has affected his well-being. It became clear to me that Clint Eastwood also used Sully’s psychology as a means of showing that even though he may have performed something that would have cost the lives of both himself and the many others whom were on board the plane, he was still an ordinary man on the inside, giving a much more realistic image to his character arc.
With said element coming in, the main highlight of Sully is the plane landing sequence – which is so confidently directed and boosts the film to a higher level with how incredibly well-acted and well-shot they are. Eastwood gets the best out of this moment through how he captures a claustrophobic vibe by carrying a feeling that heightens the tension within such a moment. For how powerful this sequence is, it is not executed without flaws as the repetition of said event drags down the film to an extent, but its importance still retained in how it helps in showing how this one moment, which may have been a miracle to some, is instead a horror for Sully, as he battled PTSD.
However, there comes Tom Hanks in the role of Sullenberg – in which he plays a damaged man. In Sully, Tom Hanks also offers what may be his very best performance to have come in recent years, for it goes beyond what may already be assumed by looking at the setup: a biopic that is certain to garner awards attention. In supporting roles we also have Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney, who are still nonetheless impactful with detailing how they are coping up with Sully and his sudden fame. If there were something to which I still could find myself admiring about recent Clint Eastwood fare that does not come to my liking, there is always a performance from a single member or an entire group that keeps everything going as smoothly as it should, once again the case here.
Yet if I had only one real complaint about Sully, I can simply say it was far too slight if anything. However, there was still enough presented that kept Sully an engaging watch all throughout, something that felt pleasing to see after having been left cold by many of Clint Eastwood’s more recent films. There are many things about Sully that perfectly show how a Hollywood biopic lately should be playing out, for even if it is not a film without its flaws, it was still one that was willing enough to take a risk especially with the subject matter that it carried. In its recognition of the humanity to a supposed hero figure, what Sully is doing best is showing how ordinary people we may not know well can be the ones who impact us most in some way.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, from Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger
and Jeffrey Zaslow
Produced by Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Tim Moore, Allyn Stewart
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 96 minutes