Director: Clint Eastwood
Actors: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart
Rating: 4 / 5
During his storied directorial career, now in its fifth decade, Clint Eastwood has consolidated his reputation as one of the foremost filmmakers in contemporary American cinema.
Whether it’s a revisionist western (Unforgiven, 1992), a family tragedy (Mystic River, 2003) or a boxing drama (Million Dollar Baby, 2004), Eastwood has explored the moral complexities of his characters with unflinching honesty, in a classical, no-frills cinematic style reminiscent of the masters of Hollywood’s golden age.
Like his last box-office sensation, American Sniper (2014), Eastwood’s 35th feature dramatises a captivating true story.
Sully is based on the memoir by Chesley Sullenberger, and recreates the flight of the commercial airliner that, minutes after take-off, collided with a flock of birds, lost both engines, and made an emergency landing in New York’s Hudson River.
Watch Sullenberger talk about what was going through his mind as he prepared to land on water
The pilot, affectionately nicknamed Sully (Hanks), and his first officer (Eckhart), kept their cool under overwhelming pressure and were hailed as heroes around world after all 155 passengers and crew on board were rescued and taken to safety.
At the same time, their snap decision to use the river as a runway came under scrutiny, and the ensuing investigation threatened to end to their careers.
Closer in spirit to the 1939 Howard Hawks classic Only Angels Have Wings — proud professional pilots perform their duty with exemplary dedication — rather than Robert Zemeckis’s somewhat similarly themed Flight (2012), the cleverly structured narrative focuses as much on the aftermath of the landing.
Working with his long-time cinematographer Tom Stern and filming for the first time with Imax cameras, Eastwood uses everything in his arsenal to ensure a thrilling and emotionally involving ride. The centerpiece crash sequence, shown multiple times from varying perspectives, is orchestrated for maximum impact. This is a film unlikely to show up on any in-flight entertainment programmes.
The film hits some minor turbulence in its depiction of the phoned-in relationship between the pilot and his anxiety-driven wife (Laura Linney). Subsidiary characters such as the fliers, crew and rescuers are also given short shrift.
On the other hand, Eastwood elicits Oscar-worthy performances from Hanks and Eckhart.
He’s now 86, but Eastwood continues to enthrall and entertain.
Watch the trailer for Sully: