Hanks and Eastwood pilot “Sully” biopic successfully

Critic Harry Westergaard looks at the new biopic from Clint Eastwood starring Tom Hanks.

Harry Westergaard, Film Critic/Reporter

Sully is not a biopic about Captain Sullenberger’s 40-year experience as a pilot. Rather, it focuses on his career-defining moment where he saved everyone aboard Flight 1549 by landing the plane on the Hudson River.  Few films are centered around such a short period of time, and Sully looks at the mere 200 seconds in which he made the decision to land in the Hudson. Tom Hanks stars as the titular Sully and, being Tom Hanks, does a great job. He is especially great when getting the crew to safety. He stays calm and does not freak out. He’s just doing his best to keep the plane full of people he’s carrying alive. Hanks also does a good job as Sully after the incident. He’s overwhelmed by all the attention he’s getting and just wants to go back to doing his job. Hanks does a really good job conveying this with expressions and voice. It’s another stellar performance by the actor.

Also of note is Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles, Sully’s first officer. Eckhart does a good job as Sully’s close friend and the only person who was in the cockpit with him when it went down. Though he could’ve been overshadowed by Hanks, Eckhart gives a top-notch performance. As Sully even states in the movie, it was just as much Jeff as it was he who saved the plane.

The scenes of the plane going down are quite tense. Clint Eastwood did a standout job on these and had me on the edge of my seat. Eastwood puts you into the same place as the passengers and helps viewers see how much of a hero Sully was. I also liked the present-day scenes. They aren’t super flashy moments, but Eastwood’s subtlety is effective. The parts where Sully is jogging around New York City provides a good look at how Sully is feeling, without having him give a grand speech or monologue.

Sully has a lot flying for it, but if there’s one thing I have a slight problem with, it is the depiction of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) as villains. They were portrayed as two dimensional baddies out to get Sully and everything he stands for. 

Nitpicks aside, I enjoyed Sully a great deal. It had a small but immensely effective cast. The two leading men, Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart do a great job. Clint Eastwood brings his typical subtle touch as director. All of these factors make Sully a powerful and effective film.