Tom Hanks is astonishing in Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial outing Sully: The Miracle On The Hudson.
There are few greater screen actors and even fewer lovable gents than Tom Hanks in my opinion. A week after being invited to a screening of Sully, my girlfriend and I went to the live recording of The Graham Norton Show as an early birthday present for myself. Graham Norton was as brilliant as usual, interacting wonderfully with the audience and his guests; the sincere but very fun Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the, well, fairly boring Gemma Arterton.
I appreciate this is a strange anecdote to start a movie review with but bare with me… topping the bill was none other than the legendary, Tom Hanks. In the two and a half hours we were there, we saw everything that we come to have expected from Hanks; a kind-hearted, genuine, funny and down to earth man who just also happens to be one of the of the best and most respected screen icons of all time. The latter part of my point was evident during a thirty-second clip of Sully which clearly had the audience gripped. Luckily for me, the week before our trip to the ITV Studios, I had the pleasure of watching the whole movie and not just those gripping thirty seconds.
For those who are unaware of The Miracle On The Hudson, I’ll do my best to briefly fill you in. On the 15th January 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and first officer Jeffrey B Skiles successfully landed a US Airways plane on the Hudson River after a flock of birds disabled both of the engines. After researching the event before seeing the film, my immediate thoughts were ‘clearly an incredible story but isn’t this a bit thin to make a film about?’. Luckily, Clint Eastwood had other ideas.
The film starts with Sully (Hanks) dreaming about the dangers of failing to land the plane successfully; it’s a rather striking opening scene of a movie set in a city that has had its own recurring nightmares of low flying aircrafts and immediately sets you up for the emotional turmoil that ensues. Shortly after, we see Sully struggling to come to terms of his new-found heroic status, with the paparazzi waiting outside his hotel and News stations around the World covering every aspect of the water landing as Sully is suddenly thrust into this new and unfamiliar world.
Sully and his co-pilot Jeff, played wonderfully by Aaron Eckhart, are interrogated by National Transportation Safety Board who fail to see the bigger picture as they aim to find out exactly why the Captain apparently risked the lives of his passengers instead of returning safely to one of the nearby airports. Sully and Jeff become each other’s coping mechanisms, speaking regularly on the phone and going for walks and runs in the early hours of the morning, but with Sully under the threat of losing his aviation career and life earnings by the NTSB and struggling with the reality of being so far away from his family, a picture of a loved but lonely hero is beautifully painted on the freezing streets of Manhattan.
After numerous discussions with the NTSB both Sully and Jeff attend a pivotal board hearing where their actions are analysed by experts and pilots in plane simulations as they wait to hear their fate and whether they will be held accountable for their life-saving actions.
There are so many things that touched me when watching Sully, but I’ll touch upon two in particular. Firstly, it’s got to be said that the actual plane landing is fairly difficult to watch. For me, the way it’s shot, acted and, as I touched upon earlier, the fact that it happened in New York City meant I couldn’t get my head around anything else other than how any passengers and onlookers must have been watching, feeling and expecting the worst. It’s an incredibly intense piece of Cinema but executed perfectly. I would say that if you’re going to see this film purely for the landing, you’ll be waiting a while, the crash itself doesn’t happen until you’re a good 30-45 mins into the movie, so don’t go expecting to be flung left, right and centre from the off.
Secondly, the performances are fantastic throughout. Hanks is phenomenal, portraying Sully as a man who is carrying the weight of everything he obsesses about on his broad shoulders. From the passenger’s lives, to his meetings with the NTSB and their clear lack of approval of his life-saving decision – not to mention the fact that he managed to successfully land a plane in the bloody Hudson River without losing a single life – Hanks’ performance gives the audience an unbelievably honest insight into the inner turmoil and struggles that Chesley Sullenberger would have been going through.
Aaron Eckhart is superb as First Officer Jeff Skiles. He gives a performance that carries such a weight of being the only man who can truly understand what Sully is going through yet is somehow absolutely hilarious throughout. In a film like Sully, there is only so much sombreness and emotion that an audience can take and Eckhart’s brilliantly upbeat performance is a real highlight of the film and his final line in the board meeting at the end of the film, is the perfect way to close such an intense and gripping movie.
The performances of The NTSB board were also excellent. Every board member infuriated me at some point during the film with Mike O’Malley and Anna Gunn, in particular, doing their best to undermine Sullenberger’s brave and heroic decision. The dynamics between both Hanks’ and Eckhart’s characters and the members of the NTSB board are sly and prickly and with both sets of teams playing such a pivotal role in the film’s story, the performances from both sides are absolutely spot on.
Eastwood has delivered a shocking and yet, at the same time touching and insightful film based around one of the most unlikeliest of miracles of the century. As is quite often the case in a Clint Eastwood film, there’s a lovely montage of clips as the credits roll which really hammers home what an amazing spectacle the Miracle On The Hudson was, and I left knowing what an incredible film it is too.
Sully: The Miracle On The Hudson is released nationwide in the UK on Friday 2nd December.