by Billy Jepma ‘19
When Tom Hanks is in a film, people pay attention. When Tom Hanks is in a film directed by Clint Eastwood, there is bound to be something good brewing. That is exactly the case with Sully–a fantastic, poignant, powerhouse of a drama. It tells the true story of a U.S. Airways pilot named Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) and how they land a commercial jet carrying 155 passengers into the Hudson River after a dual engine failure at a meager 2,800 feet in the air.
While the actual landing takes only a couple of minutes, the hour-and-a-half long film crafts a plot that is packed with purpose and real, tangible drama. There are moments that drag, but they are just that: moments. Whenever the plot seems to slow down, Todd Komarnicki’s script (which is based on Sullenberger’s autobiography) smartly emphasizes a variety of characters and perspectives to keep things moving and engaging.
Every time the audience is given another portrayal of the flight’s fateful engine failure, the film narrows down on a single, defining perspective. This gives each subsequent presentation a different tone and intensity. Sully flawlessly captures every unique, equally nail-biting side of the extraordinary event.
Hanks soars as the lead character and delivers the kind of subtle, yet affecting performance we have come to expect from the veteran actor. While his portrayal of Sully is understated and often quiet, Hanks effortlessly captures every powerful flash of emotion––fear, heartbreak, exhaustion, relief, and triumph––without breaking a sweat.
It does not hurt that he has a terrific co-star, Aaron Eckhart. Eckhart’s character provides a lot of heart, warmth, and much needed humor. The chemistry between Hanks and Eckhart is fluid and sincere, playing off of each other so naturally that it’s easy to buy into their comradeship.
With that said, it is Eastwood’s directing and haunting sound design that help push Sully into 2016’s higher echelon of films. Eastwood is direct and personal with his camera, and his frequent emphasis of intimate close-ups of the action sells the stakes of the plot without the characters needing to say a word. This, when paired with a scarce soundtrack and riveting reliance on thundering sound effects, creates an experience that is just as compelling to watch as it is to listen to.
If it is possible to watch Sully in IMAX, do it. The chairs will vibrate, the sound of the plane’s engines will engulf your senses and it is the best way to watch one of the most triumphant films of the year.