Faithful and not overly dramatised movie adaptation of Captain Sullenberg’s true story, detailed in his book “Highest duty”, Sully is Eastwood’s latest celebration of America’s strength and solidarity in difficult times.
The plot focuses on the investigation and consequences of the famous emergency landing performed by Captain Sullenberg in 2009 in which he saved all the passengers and his crew from a fatal accident.
It might have been easy to over fictionalise the story and turn it into an exaggeration of the real facts instead of a faithful representation of them. However, Eastwood is able to just tell the story as it was, without portraying the accident, if only through Sully’s recollections, while focusing on what happened after and how the captain had to face a trial set to examine his choice of landing a plane on the Hudson and still managing to save everyone.
As in every Eastwood movie, even in Sully, the line between good and bad is almost blurred. In the story, there aren’t good or bad guys, even though, at first, it might seem like the interrogators appointed to the case only want to discredit Sully. Both Sullenberg and the committee are there to do their job, even though they are fighting against each other. They are both seeking justice and closure after an almost tragic event.
For these reasons, the characters are not flat or predictable in the eyes of the audience. On one side, the three appointed interrogators are doing their job in trying to discover the truth and understand if the disaster could have been avoided and the plane safely landed on both airports close to the accident. In doing so, however, they are removing any kind of human error from their equation and condemning Sully of making a wrong decision, endangering people without reason. On the other hand, a man is defending his actions and his own reputation after making the most difficult decision of his life.
Sully is a complex man. He believes he did everything he could to save everyone. However he is still gutted by the what ifs that are clouding his brain during the trial that could possibly end his brilliant career as a pilot. Tom Hanks fully immersed himself in Sully’s self loathing. He is capable of showing both doubt and certainty in his actions and, in the end, it’s his humanity and passion for his work that will prove how right he was in making the decision of landing a plane on water.
It is precisely the human factor that is the focal point in the story. In mechanically analysing his actions and testing out all the possible outcomes, the committee always overlooks the human error or, in Sully’s case, his experience and quick reflex in predicting that the only safe bet was the most risky one.
His quick thinking and 40 years of flight experience made him a hero. But what made his choice a successful one was the support he got from his crew and the rest of the community rushing to save the passengers from the gelid waters of the Hudson. This kind of support is shown in the collaboration among the whole cast in the movie itself. They all worked together in harmony, making that sense of solidarity even more evident throughout the film.
With Sully, Eastwood once again was able to portrait that special kind of patriotism, connection and solidarity that are characteristic to all Americans. It emphasizes their sense of duty so clearly, in order to remind them of how great they can be especially during thought times and when everything seem lost.
In celebrating this good side of America, without over embellishing the overall picture with clichés and by staying true to the real facts, Sully successfully brings to the screen the honest story of a man who became a hero.
Sully is out now in cinemas across the UK!