Efficient and well-acted, Sully centers on the extraordinary events of January 15, 2009, when US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) landed his damaged Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 passengers aboard. The culprit was a flock of birds that disabled the engines. While many will remember the harrowing incident and Captain Sullenberger from various media appearances, few are aware of the intense investigation of the crash that was happening behind the scenes.
Hailed a hero by the passengers and assorted members of the media, Sully and his co-pilot were forced to fight for their careers when a board of inquiry calls into question the decisions made by Sully and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). According to the board, several confidential tests have shown that the plane could have landed safely at one of the two nearby airports, with no power from either engine. Realizing that the NTSB is considering listing the cause of the accident ‘pilot error,’ a decision that would cost him his career, Sully pursue his reputation on the line to prove that landing in the Hudson River was the only choice he had.
While I only remember how amazed the public was at Sully, his crew and their ability to safely land a passenger jet on the river, Sully does a good job of reminding views that large passenger planes are very expensive pieces of equipment and insurance companies, the manufacturer, the airline and the investigators all need someone to blame. Unfortunately, for Sully, the Captain is the most obvious target.
Tom Hanks turns in another excellent and appropriately understated performances in the title role, showing Sullenberger’s dedication to his job and the safety of his passengers and his determination to maintain his reputation. I’m not sure there’s an actor working today that portrays restrained dignity better than Tom Hanks and it’s on full display here. While Sully holds up during the hearings, the accident haunts him. At night, he wakes up in a cold sweat imagining alternate scenarios. Should he have made a different decision? It nags at him constantly. Realistic CGI imagery makes each time Sully flashes back to the crash a fascinating part of the story.
Clint Eastwood’s skilled, even-handed direction keeps Sully moving at a satisfying pace. While the multiple depictions of the crash itself could have bogged the film down, the new details revealed each time keep things interesting. This is a story where we already know how things ended, but Eastwood ratchets up the tension by allowing Sully to question himself at various times during the investigation.
Aaron Eckhart gives a solid performance as Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot whose total trust in his pilot that day, enabled him to assist Sully in landing the plane on the Hudson. Unfortunately, Laura Linney is virtually wasted as Sully wife Loraine. Seen only in faraway phone calls, she is left to complain about things on the domestic front, until she, like everyone else, realizes her husband is a real hero. Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn and Jamey Sherman play the NTSB officials, who come across as obnoxious as often as possible.
That said, this is Tom Hanks’ film. While far from his most challenging role (and not necessarily award worthy since he’s proven himself capable of much heavier lifting), Sully fits him perfectly: A humble, kind man, who does his job to the best of his ability. Honestly, I can’t imagine another actor capturing both the physical and emotional essence of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as completely as Tom Hanks does.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Warner Bros. 1080p presentation is a strong one. Several scenes take place on a plane. Here, the image leans toward the blue side, both when the jet is in the air and after it’s landed in the icy Hudson. Black levels are fairly deep, though even the occasional nighttime scene us fairly well lit, given the amount of city lights. Skin tones look natural throughout. The image is clean, details are well defined and I detected no issues with banding or aliasing.
Sully has been given a Dolby Atmos mix on Blu-ray (which downgrades to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those without an Atmos home theater). Though this is is largely a dialogue-centric film, the Atmos and 7.1 mix are given a real chance to kick it up a notch in all the scenes where the airplane is involved. In those cases, there’s a real sense of immersion. Though it seems a bit much during the many scenes involving conversation, anytime another depiction of the crash came up, I was glad Warner thought it important to provide such sharp audio options. It goes without saying, dialogue is clean and clear throughout.
English SDH, French, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Hebrew, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish and Swedish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Moment By Moment: Averting Disaster on the Hudson (HD, 15:44) The real life Sully, his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and the air traffic controller discuss the historic landing and aftermath mixed in with footage from the movie.
- Sully Sullenberger: The Man Behind the Miracle (HD, 19:49) The real-life Sully and his wife, Lorrie, talk about his background, including how he came to be a pilot.
- Neck Deep in the Hudson: Shooting Sully (HD, 20:17) This “Making of” featurette has interviews with Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, Aaron Eckhart, Frank Marshall and others. They discuss how the project came about, what got the players involved and how pleasant it is to work on a film with Clint Eastwood in the director’s chair.
- DVD copy of the film.