The “Sully” Review

Someone had asked a very interesting question in Quora sometime back as – “What will a film look like if the director does not have vision ?” Although it wasn’t directly implied but it intrigued me when I thought about the underlying meaning of that question. What this inquisitive Quoran really wanted to understand was the meaning of ‘vision’. Many a time we hear people declare emphatically that “This director has vision…”. Although this so-called ‘vision’ may be a subjective term, its clearly discernible in the work of a director when its there. You feel something different, something intangible yet clearly present as an undefinable force throughout the film.

You can check out our answer here: Our take on what ‘Vision’ really means

Clint Eastwood is a visionary – not only for identifying this amazing story which we had so easily dismissed like an everyday nonentity but also for knowing exactly how to convey it. Visionaries have microscopic minds. Where we see a headline to be gulped down with the morning coffee, they see a human incident. They live the experiences of the people involved, as if they were a part of it. They understand the incredible story that exists behind that unassuming headline.

Visionaries have microscopic minds. Where we see a headline to be gulped down with the morning coffee, they see a human incident. They live the experiences of the people involved, as if they were a part of it. They understand the incredible story that exists behind that unassuming headline.

Based on the true events of January 15th, 2009, Sully is a biographical drama on the defining moment in the life of United Airways Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. On that fateful day, just a few minutes after United Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia airport, a flock of birds directly came into the path of the plane hitting both the propeller engines, rendering them useless. As Sully (played by Hanks) and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (played by Aaron Eckhart) realize that they had lost both engines, they are faced with a scenario that no pilot is trained for. After taking stock of the situation and formulating an emergency plan, Sully decides to turn back towards LaGuardia airport for an emergency landing. As they adjust their course, every moment as crucial as the next, they realize that they would probably not make it that far due to the rapidly decreasing altitude of the plane. Instead of losing their calm, they methodically work with the Ground control team to evaluate all available options in terms of other nearby airports. Ground control advises that they could try for the Teterboro airport which was just 7 miles from them and could just be their last resort. However, by this time the plane has lost considerable amount of altitude and is literally plummeting towards the Hudson river. The ground-control’s help aside, all the technology inside the plane aside – the life of all the 155 of the passengers onboard, now falls on Sully’s shoulders as he decides to perform an impossible feat of landing Flight 1549 on the freezing cold waters of the Hudson river. With just his 42 years of extensive flight experience to guide him, Sully embraces the moment as just another landing that he had to do with precision and safely lands the plane on the river. With help from paramedic rapid action agencies and the Coast Guard, all 155 are saved from  the sinking plane and returned to safety. Sully becomes a hero…

Flight 1549 gradually sinks as passengers wait to be rescued

However, things were not over for Sully. After investigating the sequence of events, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) alleges that Sully could easily have made it back to LaGuardia airport as per the simulations they had run by emulating the same conditions that Sully and Skiles faced that day. They add that with this unconventional landing, he had put the lives of all the passengers at grave risk. The moment that made him being hailed as a hero, now also threatened to prematurely end his untarnished career and question his integrity as a pilot…

As Sully put it [not sic] – “I have flown millions of passengers in the last 40 years and my life would be judged only by those 208 seconds…” Unlike his calm exterior, inside Sully is traumatized by that day. He keeps seeing visions of what could have happened if he had decided to go for one of the airports in that split second decision. Eastwood’s portrayal of those horrific outcomes show the plane crashing into buildings eerily like 9/11. Sully knew in his mind that if he had taken the other option, America would have had another 9/11 on its hands. Even though Sully was centred around an accomplished cast of Hanks himself and Eckhart, the story is all about the people who survived that day. There wasn’t an ounce of celebrity razzmatazz or unnecessary adulation where people see him as superman. The emotional reactions of every one involved in that incident and the rescue is refreshingly authentic and real.

Hanks is phenomenal as the seasoned pilot, who struggles to keep his integrity intact. His wife, played by Laura Linney, assures him that he had done the right thing while he asks – “What if I didn’t ? What if I was wrong ?” This dilemma is accurately depicted by Hanks and Eckhart, who strongly supports Hanks’ decision and maintains that – “If we had done everything by the book that day, we wouldn’t be here having this discussion…”

Hanks on the left and the real Sully on the right

Sully is an homage to human courage and the inexplicable instinct that we usually choose to ignore. Sully chose to ignore what the machines were telling him that day and chose to trust his instincts and his vast experience as a pilot. Eastwood’s representation authentically reflects every event on and after that fateful day in a balanced take. There is no prejudice thrust upon us as an audience that Hanks has to be innocent since he is the protagonist. Instead, we are kept in the very same dilemma that Sully was in himself. With a story so riveting in its natural form, it would do more harm than good for the director to add in an extra layer of “film” to it. And this is something that all directors, who work on films based on true events, should learn to adopt. The story is always higher in stature than the audience it chooses to please. Distorting facts and adding a dash of drama just for the sake of it, not only reduces the credibility of the film-maker but also fictionalizes the people who lived it.

Signing off with my favorite dialogue in the film [not sic] :

“Would you like to add anything Mr. Skiles ? Anything that you would have done differently if you had to do it again ?”

“Nothing except I would have loved to land the plane on the Hudson in July..” – Skiles adds with a smirk as Sully looks on with a smile on his face.


gobblscore: 8/10

gobblpoint: Eastwood is one of the best story-tellers alive. He is an institution in himself and this shows in his films. With brilliant actors such as Hanks in the equation, rest assured that you are in for an unforgettable experience.


Disclaimer: The images used in this post are the sole property of the makers of this film and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever. 


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