By Jim Tortolano
The challenge with “Sully,” the new film by Clint Eastwood about the “Miracle on the Hudson” in 2009, is that it’s a story with no surprises and no villains.
To make a drama out of the heroic performance of Capt. Chesley Sullenberger in landing a jet passenger plane in the river when both engines failed, saving the lives of 155 people, is daunting. Everyone knows what happened. And how could there be a dramatic conflict?
The screenplay, then focuses not just on the fateful flight itself – which only lasted a few minutes – but also on the investigation that followed in which some aviation experts thought the pilot should have attempted to land the Airbus at La Guardia Airport in New York City.
Therefore the conflict is with the investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. Not exactly terrorists or Russian mobsters, but their devotion – as depicted in the film – to computer simulations and arcane procedures – gives Tom Hanks (as “Sully”) the opportunity to adroitly play the human card.
Hanks, with his typical spot-on understatement, makes the “forced water landing” seem both routine and supernatural. It was a calculated risk borne out of a lifetime of experience, made good by the quick and careful reactions of others.
While this film might make one leery of traveling anywhere with Hanks – think “Castaway” (plane crash), “Apollo 13” (space disaster), “Captain Phillips” (hijacking at sea) – the film doesn’t really fly (sorry!) without Hanks. He is on screen almost the entire film, and the screenplay leaves only a little space for his co-pilot (Aaron Eckhart) and Sully’s lip-biting wife (Laura Linney), who mostly keeps asking “Are you all right?”
This movie is better than all right. Eastwood’s direction is taut and sure and the scenes of the rescue on the Hudson are strictly stand-up-and-cheer.
People under pressure doing the right thing. A good lesson for pilots, presidential candidates and all the rest of us.
“Sully” is rated PG-13 for a bit of language and drinking.
Categories: Arts & Leisure