“Embrace for Impact” – ‘Sully’ is the Movie of the Year (so far)


Sully in theaters now

Fabian Brims, Egalitarian Staff Writer

We all know about the events of January 15, 2009 when an airplane had to emergency-land on the Hudson River in New York with all 155 souls on board surviving. Now, seven years later, Clint Eastwood brings the events to the big screen and tells us the story behind it, which only few people knew about – until now.

The film opens almost exactly 15 years after the events of 9/11. Given that the movie includes dream sequences of airplanes crashing into buildings, this could easily be deemed as incredibly tasteless and cause public outrage, but not in the hands of Clint Eastwood, who once again proves that he’s one of Hollywood’s most sensitive filmmakers.

It is very difficult to make a movie about known events that is still exciting and suspenseful. Eastwood achieves this with an asynchronous timeline, and he also thwarts the viewer’s expectations by not showing the landing in the very beginning of the movie. Generally, he’s more interested in the aftermath of the events – how the hero Sully deals with first the new stardom and second with doubts if he really did the right thing even though all passengers survived. The members of the National Transportation Safety Board are skeptical and assume the plane could have made it back to the airport, without risking the passengers lives with a water landing so suddenly Sully’s whole career seems at risk.

Tom Hanks plays the main character masterfully and brings his doubts, his heroism, and his fears realistically to the big screen. ‘Sully’ is his one-man-show, and he shoulders it easily, which should result in at least another Oscar nomination for Hanks. The supporting roles are also excellently casted: Aaron Eckhardt sports a huge mustache as the co-pilot and delivers the best line of the movie; Laura Linney portrays Sully’s wife and captures her fear and helplessness very well, but also her big relief that her husband is alive after all. Also, Anna Gunn plays a security board investigator with a personality similar to her most famous role as Skyler White from ‘Breaking Bad’ and who can be best described with a word that rhymes with witch.

Just like two years ago with ‘American Sniper’, Clint Eastwood brings another movie about an American hero to the big screen, but this time it’s much less controversial. Without political subtext ‘Sully’ is pure emotional cinema, and the screenplay by Todd Komarnicki, who adapted Sullenberger’s book ‘Highest Duty’, is the foundation for that. Anyone who has ever flown on a plane must get goose bumps when the captain announces “Embrace for impact” over the intercom and the flight attendants chant “heads down – stay down” in an endless loop filled with hope and desperation. It is moments like this when the movie is most powerful. The crisp IMAX photography from cinematographer Tom Stern also contributes to that. With excellent timing and always being close to the characters and their emotions, Eastwood and his crew get everything out of these 96 minutes – his shortest feature film so far. The only parts which I disliked were the constantly, ‘Titanic’-like soundtrack theme and the recurring product placement for Marriott Hotels, but the quality of the movie outweighs that.

Another interesting aspect is the similarity to the movie ‘Flight’ from Robert Zemeckis. While in the 2012 film with Denzel Washington a pilot tries to cover up his alcoholism after an impressive emergency landing, in ‘Sully’ a true hero must fight for his reputation when investigators try to blame the crash on his decisions, rather than acknowledging his experience. This is some kind of inversion, a different side of the same (gold) medal, and it is going to be interesting if the two movies will be similarly successful and acclaimed.

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