All hail Tom Hanks, the everyman hero we most certainly do not deserve, but whom we undoubtedly need.
I mean, when you heard they were making a movie about Chesley Sullenberger, the airline pilot who safely landed a damaged jet in the Hudson River, you immediately figured Hanks would be playing him, right? Just slap a mustache on the man and let’s go.
Hanks is our Jimmy Stewart; that calm, collected presence on the big screen who seems so relatable, he gives us permission to dare to put ourselves in his position and ask the anxious question “What would I do in that situation?”
The movie “Sully” really only works because of Hanks. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood, who is about as competent as they come, but the problem is the story itself is so remarkable it actually winds up being unremarkable.
Well, of course, he landed that plane on the Hudson River with zero fatalities, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen when birds knock out both of your engines seconds after takeoff?
No way. But then it’s not that often when a movie plays out as an absolute best-case scenario.
Eastwood tries to increase the drama by telling the story as a series of flashbacks and flashforwards and trumping up the post-crash investigation into a witch hunt to pin the blame of the incident on our intrepid captain. The investigators are almost comically villainous as they cross-examine Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart, boasting an Oscar-worthy mustache of his own).
But, then there’s Hanks in the middle of it all, wearing on his face the weight of the 155 lives he held precariously in his hands while enduring the unwanted scrutiny and media attention that comes with being the man behind the “Miracle on the Hudson.” He gives this movie a heft it simply otherwise wouldn’t have had.
The rest of the cast is solid, with a notable turn by Laura Linney as Sully’s wife, Lorraine, who is only able to comfort her husband over the telephone as the hoopla surrounding him only grows larger.
The movie “Sully” reminded me the most of was another true-life airline drama “United 93,” which chronicled the doomed flight that crashed in Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. In a lot of ways, these movies are mirror images as you go in knowing exactly how things turn out and you watch as a seemingly routine flight becomes unexpectedly extraordinary.
But while “United 93” was like watching a Doomsday clock count down to zero, in “Sully” the early scenes of a mother holding her child or last-minute arrivals just making it onto the plane don’t fill you with dread and heartbreak.
Instead, “Sully” serves as a reminder that sometimes good things do happen in this world and normal, everyday people are ready and able to rise to seemingly incredible challenges when the situation presents itself. Of course, it never hurts when those normal, everyday people are Tom Hanks in disguise.
“Sully” is rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.