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Sully [2016] is the new film from director Clint Eastwood and tells the true story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the man who emergency landed a passenger airplane on the Hudson River back in 2009. Todd Komarnicki pens a script that is based on the autobiography by the real-life Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. Sully stars Tom Hanks in the titular role, alongside Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) and Laura Linney (The Truman Show).

Keep It Professional: Say what you will about Eastwood’s storied history as a director, but his steadfast reliability behind the camera is nothing if not noteworthy. His films are hit-or-miss, and truth-be-told, he hasn’t found that cinematic sweet spot in over a decade (see: a certain Best Picture winning film about boxing). That being said, in the years since, Eastwood has proved to be one of Hollywood’s most consistently professional directors, churning out serviceable films to moderate box office returns and mixed-to-favorable reviews. Sully breaks no new ground and such is usually par for the course when it comes to “Based on True Events” films, but under Eastwood’s handy direction, the picture ends up being a strong testament to its subject and Eastwood’s best film in several years.

Preflight Checklist Complete: Not to indicate that technical prowess was ever an issue for Eastwood’s films (okay, I haven’t forgotten about that plastic baby in American Sniper and neither has anyone else, Mr. Eastwood), but Sully is stunning in its large-scale sequences, while understatedly well-shot in its more subdued scenes. From an editing standpoint, Sully is more than competent at roping in the viewer and holding the suspense taut from shot to shot. This is impressive, considering that the outcome of the event is known right from the get-go. Through the lens, a less visceral approach is applied to Sully that is refreshing. Note to filmmakers: shaky cam does not automatically equate to thrills.

Nobody’s Perfect:  Sully is technically strong, and on a storytelling level, the film also works to a fault. It unfortunately falls short of greatness because of not only its conventional nature, because of its director’s vision of flawless heroes that also plagued American Sniper. I will not pretend to be an expert on Sully’s story, nor would I contend to question his real-life merits as a human being, but the fact is that even hero-worshipping true stories like this one benefit from rounded characters. Sully, as portrayed in the film, is an incredible pilot, a perfect husband, and a relentlessly kind man. He is troubled, no doubt, but that is through no fault of his own. As is said in the film regarding the incident, everything was accounted for except the human factor. Watch Schindler’s List, and see how the film handles a true-life hero, while also acknowledging his flaws in a very tasteful way.

Sticking the Landing with Damage: Across the board, Sully cruises just above serviceability but soars below greatness. It rides on conventional true story tropes, albeit very competently. Tom Hanks, as per usual, is nearly impossible not to root for in a characteristically reliable performance. Aaron Eckhart, as Sully’s co-pilot, gives an understated supporting performance that gave me hope for his near-future prospects (also, just look at that moustache!). Laura Linney is…sort of just there; crying on the phone when she’s needed as light characterization padding for our hero. Sully is not a perfect film by any stretch, but it is a technically sound, well-acted, entertaining tribute to a real-life hero.

While it may not stand out as one of Eastwood's finest directorial efforts, Sully is certainly a highlight of his recent outings, overcoming its conventionalism with a likable lead, beautiful visuals, compelling storytelling, and a mostly above-average adaptation of a remarkable true story.

Sully
3.5Overall Score
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