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“Sully” is Tom Hanks at his heroic best

sully tom-hanks alone
Yesterday, I got the chance to finally take a look at Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks’ collaboration Sully. The film is quite good, showcasing both heavyweights at peak skill. This week could have been a pretty barren one, but Sully saves it, just like he did all of the passengers on his plane. In depicting the Miracle on the Hudson, Eastwood could have fallen back on his lazier tendencies, while Hanks could have coasted on his likability, but neither do. This is a high effort and tight work that represents one of Eastwood’s best directorial outings to date. Frankly, it’s a must see and a definite Academy Award contender.

Once again, in case you don’t know by now, Sully is a biopic about Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks), the pilot who became a national hero. We all learned about Captain Sullenberger, or Sully, after he glided his crippled plane to a landing in the Hudson River, saving all 155 souls on board. What we never knew though was the investigation that went on concurrently to his victory tour of sorts. Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) had to go before the NTSB to defend their actions. Sully feels he did right, but what if he put everyone at risk? We all know what will happen, but this is a behind the scenes look at it all. Eastwood directs a script from Todd Komarnicki, with the supporting cast including Laura Linney as Sully’s life, along with the likes of Chris Bauer, Ann Cusack, Jerry Ferrara, Anna Gunn, Sam Huntington, Blake Jones, Valerie Mahaffey, Holt McCallany, Mike O’Malley, Jamey Sheridan, and more. Tom Stern again handles Eastwood’s cinematography.

The film works in large part due to Hanks, as well as the collaboration between Eastwood and Komarnicki. Eckhart and Linney are fine, but Hanks shines in the sort of everyman hero role he could do in his sleep. He hardly sleepwalks through it though, really captivating you at every single turn. As for Eastwood, the script doesn’t allow him to get lackadaisical or coast by. Likewise, Komarnicki’s screenplay is elevated by the filmmaker, in particular during the riveting airplane sequences. I’m not a lover of flying, and this gave me some real stress, especially in IMAX (despite obviously knowing the outcome). At merely 95 minutes long, the movie flies by too, no pun intended.

Awards wise, this has across the board potential with Oscar. Look for campaigns to be launched in Best Picture, Best Director (for Eastwood), Best Actor (for Hanks), Best Supporting Actor (for Eckhart), Best Supporting Actress (for Linney), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Komarnicki), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. I suspect that Picture, Actor (for Hanks), and possibly Visual Effects is the best bets for the flick, but anything is possible at this stage in the game, and nothing is guaranteed just yet. If voters go nuts over it, plenty more love could follow.

sully tom hanks
Side note, here’s an updated ranking of Eastwood’s filmography, post Sully:

1. Million Dollar Baby
2. Sully
3. Unforgiven
4. Mystic River
5. The Outlaw Josey Wales
6. Heartbreak Ridge
7. High Plains Drifter
8. A Perfect World
9. Play Misty for Me
10. American Sniper
11. Letters from Iwo Jima
12. Pale Rider
13. Space Cowboys
14. Flags of our Fathers
15. Bird
16. Honkytonk Man
17. Blood Work
18. Bronco Billy
19. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
20. The Bridges of Madison County
21. The Gauntlet
22. White Hunter Black Hear
23. Jersey Boys
24. Absolute Power
25. True Crime
26. Changeling
27. Firefox
28. J. Edgar
29. Invictus
20. The Eiger Sanction
31. Sudden Impact
32. The Rookie
33. Gran Torino
34. Hereafter
35. Breezy

Overall, Sully is easily the best bet this weekend and a nice start to the best movie season of the year. The films are starting to be worthy of the Academy’s attention, and I couldn’t be happier about it. If you’re a fan of Eastwood, Hanks, or just biopics in general, you can’t go wrong with this option. I expect audiences will dig this one, leading to a healthy box office, if not quite the blockbuster status of American Sniper a few years back. Still, this is a nice movie for adults in a season that promises more. Give this one a shot…

Be sure to check out Sully, in theaters everywhere tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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