Sully (2016)

brooke Leave it to Tom Hanks, amirite?

casey He is our stoic everyman, avatar of our struggles with the burdens of modernity. Strong, composed, and appropriately vulnerable. He is…all of us. Or at least he’s a good actor.

brooke Well, he’s definitely the latter.

casey I’ve enjoyed his recent efforts, including the stately thriller Bridge of Spies and the less stately, but more thrilling thriller, Captain Phillips.

brooke I didn’t like Bridge of Spies as much, but I also liked him in Captain Phillips, along with Catch Me If You Can, Cast Away, You’ve Got Mail, That Thing You Do, and many of the other bajillion roles he has played.

casey This time Hanks stars as real-life airplane pilot turned hero Sully Sullenberger in a movie directed by a man who’s made a career out of exploring masculinity and vulnerability, Clint Eastwood. The result is a drama that I found…pretty good, if flawed.

brooke I seriously doubt any other actor could have carried this movie. Without him, it goes from blockbuster to Lifetime afternoon special.
For anyone who doesn’t know the story, in January 2009 Sully landed a commercial flight containing 155 passengers on the Hudson River after a bird strike killed both of the plane’s engines soon after takeoff, a hard decision that miraculously resulted in zero fatalities. The movie covers the aftermath, including a National Transportation Safety Board investigation that followed the emergency landing.

casey I liked Sully, though I never quite loved it. My main problem was that the NTSB investigators come off as weirdly hostile, which makes them feel like cartoon villains out to take Sully down. Maybe this was how it happened in real life, but their antipathy is at odds with the more interesting theme of Sully struggling with his own self-doubt, which manifests in the movie’s quieter moments, where Sully finds himself alone in a hotel room or at a bar with the news singing his praises. Certain scenes have a sort of introspective uncertainty Hanks can pull off as well as anyone, and that’s where the movie is at its best.

brooke For a movie that’s mostly comprised of formal interrogation scenes and closeups, it’s compelling. There are also fascinating “dream-sequence” in which Sully visualizes every way the flight could have gone wrong, scenes that definitely bank on cultural fears surrounding low-flying planes and New York City, but in a way that doesn’t feel too forced.

casey Yeah, those parts are also good. In the end I’d say Sully is a nice portrait of how a competent professional deals with trauma, which is to say, it’s a very Clint Eastwood movie. It’s less ambitious than some of his others, definitely not in his top tier, but it’s worth a watch. Better than American Sniper, at least.


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