Eastwood and Hanks’ “Sully” A No-Nonsense Everyman


Mustaches loom large in Clint Eastwood’s “Sully.”

MV5BMTg5NTUwNDIyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI2OTc3OTE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Large, because I saw it in IMAX where size matters.

This trivial observation, however, also speaks to a commitment to the literal that is peculiar to Eastwood’s films.

Since the pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who landed an Airbus jet in the Hudson River saving 155 “souls” and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, both had cookie dusters in real life, so do Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, the actors who play them.

It’s the sort ordinary detail, that like a scoop of vanilla, gives Eastwood’s storytelling a bland name.

But “Sully,” which recreates the landing and the investigation into it, is also made in the image of the title character, a no-nonsense pragmatist who makes no excuse for doing the right thing and who doesn’t expect praise for doing it.

He is a typical Eastwood hero, someone just doing his job in nothing-to-see-here fashion until there is something to see. Then he reacts with a cool efficiency that comes with experience, much in the way Eastwood builds his films.

hhHanks has spent a lifetime playing everyman characters – as in “Captain Phillips” and “Bridge of Spies” – who do extraordinary things in times of crisis.

Here he gives Sully a humility bordering on the monotonous, deflecting praise while radiating confidence and dignity.

It is likely less an invention than an imitation of the man we became familiar with from coverage of the events of January 2009 and his subsequent television appearances.

Sully, his wife, played by Laura Linney – frantic at home at the other end of the phone – Skiles and the passengers, are reunited in the closing credits. Linney’s scenes feel obligatory rather than essential but scenes of Sully’s past as a pilot are effective bits of biographical shorthand.

The money shots of course are of the dramatic water landing – it was not a crash Sully reminds his NTSB interrogators – which Eastwood presents several times adding details and shifting perspectives each time until a full picture emerges, including the role of first responders who rescued passengers from the river.

Eastwood probably exaggerates the healing and unity Sully brought a city and nation still scarred by the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, but its hard to resist the comparison.

***1/2 Three and one half stars

With Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Valerie Mahaffey, Mike O’Malley, Delphi Harrington, Christopher Curry, Sam Huntington.

Produced by Tim Moore, Frank Marshall, Clint Eastwood. Written by Todd Komarnicki.

Directed by Clint Eastwood.

Rated PG-13, peril, language.

Approximate running time: 95 minutes.


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  • Edward


    From the above Milwaukee Journal Sentinel archive is an opinion letter to the editor:
    Pilot’s Word Fitting–

    Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who safely landed a jetliner in the Hudson River on Jan. 15, was recently honored in his hometown. For once, we didn’t hear of the usual drivel about miracles, answered prayers or an intervention by some god.

    Instead we heard “Sully” say, “We were only doing the job we were trained to do.”

    Thanks, “Sully”, for a job well done.

    Let’s see if Clint Eastwood portrayed “Sully” with the respect and honor he deserves.

    (Small comment: it was an Airbus 320 not a Boeing 747.)

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