Sully Review: Old Fashioned American Heroism

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It’s been almost eight years since the real Captain Chesley Sullenberger pulled off the unthinkable and landed a plane on the Hudson River. Everyone survived and Sully was declared a national hero. As a film, Sully wants to be a tell-all of the legal disputes that took place immediately after the “miracle.” Interspersed with a masterfully, almost distractingly, filmed recreation of the event told through flashbacks, the film is part disaster epic and part courtroom drama. Neither succeeds as much as director Clint Eastwood wants them to, but he does imbed the film with an almost blind sense of American heroism. At Sully‘s best, it’s an infectious feeling.

Tom Hanks steps into Sully’s shoes for the thankfully only 96-minute film (even the best biopics could benefit from Eastwood’s economic editing) in just the manner you expect him to. After Saving Private Ryan, Philadelphia, Captain Phillips, and Bridge of Spies, we all know Hanks can play the charmingly ordinary hero in his sleep. He doesn’t wake up enough here to do anything spectacular, but what he delivers is serviceable to the film and its broader message.

Ultimately, Sully is a film that wants to take back old fashioned American heroism. There are too many obvious winks in Todd Komarnicki’s script about computers being unable match humanity that makes pieces of the film the sort of technophobic grumblings you might hear from Grandpa at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s the moments where Sully shows the age of its makers that the film struggles the most. Some of the cheesy dialogue is likely to make anyone under the age of 50 do a complete eye roll. It’s the kind of out-of-touch storytelling that immediately narrows the audience of a film intended to have mass appeal. We all know what it looks like when Eastwood stands on a stage and tries to lecture.

But still, the veteran director never loses sight of the fact that the world needs heroes like Captain Sully. That’s not to say white men, as Hollywood sure has a surplus of those, but people with a genuine spirit and drive to do good. “New York hasn’t seen news this good in years,” one character says to Sully after the landing. “Especially involving a plane.” Make no mistake, the film portrays its titular character as it should, even if it initially tried to deceive us. The real Captain Sully is a hero. In a year where the United States has faced extreme racial turmoil and a deafening amount of gun violence, it’s nice to see that kind of heroism done justice. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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