SAM’S TAKE: “Sully”

sams-takeOn Jan. 15, 2009, New York City witnessed the impossible: a miraculous plane landing in the Hudson River where all 155 passengers survived. The pilot of this aircraft was Chesley Sullenberger, and he was quickly hailed a national hero.

But, behind the scenes of this incredible event was an ongoing investigation that could have ruined the man’s 40-year career and reputation.

“Sully,” a new film directed by Clint Eastwood, aims to recount not only the investigation but the effect this had on the passengers, New Yorkers and Sully himself.

Tom Hanks portrays Sully in a subtlety distant performance, but expresses just enough emotion to sympathize with the character during the film’s first slow minutes. He is joined by Aaron Eckhart as his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, and the two play off each other beautifully. The duo’s chemistry is electric and allows the audience to ease into the film before the landing.

After that point in the film, the Hudson landing scene is revisited from different perspectives, an effective depiction of how significant the event was. The audience is shown how everyone involved differently experienced this near-disaster.

Commercial flights attempting water landings rarely yield many survivors, and almost never does every passenger emerge alive from of one of these catastrophes.

This fact is certainly not lost on the filmmakers; yet they chose some painfully cheesy ways to express the sentiment. They decide to focus on a few passengers, giving them short backstories that feel forced and manipulative.

Despite these flaws, I would be lying if I said Eastwood and company don’t make it work. While I was initially rolling my eyes, I was nearly brought to tears when the plane went down. The scene is filmed without any music or dramatic techniques, which puts you right in the heart of the situation, which only amplifies just how horrifying those 240 seconds in the air must have been.

Sadly, these emotionally-manipulative techniques are applied to the investigators as well, who are portrayed more as cartoonish villains than human beings. This was especially jarring, given how realistically Sully and Skiles are portrayed.

The first and final minutes of the film are also sore spots, as the former is slow enough to make you turn the movie off, while the latter employs such a sharp tonal shift that it almost changed my entire opinion of the last hour and a half.

The more I think about “Sully,” the more I realize not only the importance of the man’s good deed, but also the skill with which Eastwood was able to make this film work. Cheesy techniques be damned.

Samuel Goodrich, Staff Writer

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