Review: Hanks plays hero again in short, simple 'Sully'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Sep 11 2016 12:04 PM

Tom Hanks is still one of the busiest senior actors around in Hollywood. Most of his recent films still end up with awards attention, like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" (2011), "Cloud Atlas" (2012), "Captain Phillips" (2013), "Saving Mr. Banks" (2013), and just last year "Bridge of Spies" (2015). This year, he has three films with three distinct flavors. "A Hologram for the King" is a slow and puzzling art film. "Inferno" is the third installment of the popcorn Dan Brown-Robert Langdon film franchise. And then there is this film "Sully," a type which may likely attract Oscar attention again.

On January 15, 2009, US Airways pilot Captain Chelsea "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his first officer Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) just took off from La Guardia Airport in New York City on a routine domestic flight to Charlotte, North Carolina. A few minutes in midair, a flock of birds flew straight into the path of the airplane, causing both engines to explode and fail.

In the face of certain disaster, Capt. Sully made a decision to land right onto the Hudson River. All 155 passengers and crew survive and the press celebrated this heroic landing "The Miracle on the Hudson." However, amidst the jubilation, Air Safety experts investigated whether Capt. Sully's feat was truly heroic, or was it a foolhardy stunt which actually endangered the lives of everyone on board.

Hanks can really embody these types of characters so well, so cool and collected, so stoic and unflustered. We have seen him in roles like this many times, most recently in "Bridge of Spies." He has been so uniformly consistently good in similar roles like this that they do not make any real solid impact anymore. He is a very good actor no doubt, but incredibly, his last Oscar nomination for Best Actor was way back 2001 for "Cast Away," his last risky performance of note.

The film also celebrates the unprecedented feat of commercial aviation by Capt. Sully, as well as the prompt response of the rescuers from the city of New York. However, the drama and conflict of the film was more about the investigations which came after the landing upon which the career and name of Capt. Sully hung precariously.

Director Clint Eastwood did not waste any time at all with useless diversions, telling the whole story in only a terse yet tense 96 minutes. This extraordinary story was straightforward and simple, and the film was similarly straightforward and simple. This "straight-to-the-point approach" is really the best for true-to-life stories like this. There is no need for extra dramatics in the guise of artistic license.

The emergency water landing scenes were harrowing (even if I did not watch this in IMAX). The inclusion of real-life celebrities like Katie Couric and David Letterman added interest. A heartwarming extra scene during the closing credits added gravitas. 7/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."