|Aaron Eckhart and Tom Hanks in Sully|
Clint Eastwood's intermittently gripping biographical drama, Sully, depicts Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's emergency landing in January 2009 of a passenger jet on the Hudson River, which resulted in his becoming a national hero when all 155 passengers and crew survived (some with only minor injuries). Based on Sullenberger's autobiography Highest Duty (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow), Eastwood's Sully is after more, however, than simply celebrating a hero who gambled on his years of experience to pull off a risky landing that could have been catastrophic had it failed. With Tom Hanks in the role of Sully, the picture attempts, often successfully, to contrast the growing acclaim in the media and public for a man who pulled off a miracle with the troubled mind of a veteran pilot who suffers the dread of someone who maybe just got lucky.
With a script by Todd Komarnicki, Sully is at its best when it gets into the area of how our conditioned responses are sometimes inappropriate when dealing with matters out of our control. For Sully, this flight is one of many, where his skills at flying are already a relaxed reflex that takes everything into consideration. But when a number of Canada geese unexpectedly fly directly into his two engines and disable them, he has to quickly move out of that comfort zone and into gambled probabilities. Not only does Sully have to work against time, but he and his copilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), have to quickly agree on a course of action that doesn't come with any guarantees of success. For the public and the media cheering the ultimate outcome, there's an equally set response: people -- naturally eager to celebrate a happy story involving crashing airplanes in New York City eight years after 9/11 -- can't see that, despite the results, the man they're now acclaiming as Superman is currently struggling with his own Kryptonite. Sully is about how technology teaches us to acquiesce to its perfection in order to give us the security of control, but that in reality, that belief can be a trap when life suddenly intervenes and trips us up. Using IMAX cameras to depict various versions, from different viewpoints, of the take-off, the crash and rescue, cinematographer Tom Stern creates a widescreen map not unlike the landscape of a huge video game, but he wisely provides the kind of editing and movement that humanize the screen so that we feel the impending anxiety of losing control.