“No good deed goes unpunished.”
As nauseatingly cliche as this familiar mantra from the annals of Murphy’s Law sounds, it is regrettably still true. Most of us have probably experienced the ecstatic joy of doing something remarkably beneficial to others or for others, only to have those ever present professed human forces of darkness vex your satisfaction. They simply will not let you be the hero or heroine you are. Not even for fifteen minutes.
Solidly based upon the best selling book “Highest Duty”, Sully reveals the abject vexation of Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, who after saving the lives 155 people aboard U.S Airways Flight 1549, by making a bold decision to set his plane down in the Hudson River, became an object of ridicule via the National Transportation Safety Board. The in depth investigation into the event nearly cost him his career as a pilot.
Director Clint Eastwood eschews a standard linear narrative, shifting from horrible nightmares to appropriate flashbacks and present events leading up to the eventual hearing Sully must endure to clear his name. It’s nearly like a puzzle, yet fortunately not difficult to put together. Intermittently throughout the pic, Eastwood gives a complete picture of our protagonist as a skillful military pilot and how he came to be one.
Thankfully, Eastwood, scripter Todd Kormanicki, and Clint’s steadfast cinematographer, Tom Stern don’t waste too much time delivering the heart of the movie either, the miracle on the Hudson. They harbor every seemingly interminable suspenseful tick from the take off at LaGuardia to the skillfully executed water landing after both engines fail.
Tom Hanks, one of the most talented Everyman actors ever, invests all his heart and soul into the beleaguered Sullenberger. Thanks to a superb make up job lead by department head Luisa Abel, Hanks becomes the splitting image of the real life Sully, enabling one to witness the myriad of emotions and occasional flashbacks of his life. And he likes to run to stay in shape too. It is so apparent that he accomplishes something no other airline pilot has done before, you cannot help but to proclaim him a hero.
His wife Lorraine played by Laura Linney contrariwise, is only allowed to display a worrisome persona and not much else other than the deep love she has for her husband. And dealing with a naturally invasive media pressed around her home doesn’t make things any easier.
Batman alum Aaron Eckhart gets to sport a thick mustache as Sully’s faithful friend and co-pilot Jeff Skiles. There’s no reasonable doubt in his mind, since he was right there in the flight deck, that Sully did the right thing despite some NTSB findings.
There is a considerable aura of old fashioned, underlying and particularly enjoyable suspense as the clock ticks down to the final hearing. Although you know what will happen eventually, Sully always comes across as highly tense and dramatic. Hanks maintains centerpiece position, dominating every scene he’s in.
Supporting antagonists,notably Anna Gunn from the acclaimed female centered Wall Street film “Equity”, are as foreboding as they should be, grilling Sully with “viable” alternatives that he could have attempted in lieu of setting the aircraft in the water. Two fellow inquisitors, Ben Edwards (Jamie Sheridan) and Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley) are especially determined to find error in Sully’s judgement.
With all of it’s personal and professional intrigue, this amazing true story boils down to man verses machine. Captain Sullenberger summoned every ounce of flight experience and know how to safely land Flight 1549, and did not have time to consult with a computer to advise him. In the end, his God given human instincts saved everyone aboard that plane; no machine could have done that.