‘Sully’ Movie Review: Tom Hanks is Outstanding as Hero Chesley Sullenberger

Sully stars Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart
Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart in ‘Sully’ (Photo © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc)

“This is the Captain. Brace for impact,” says Chesley Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) to the passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 as he prepares to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in the dramatic movie, Sully.

Based on the harrowing true events that occurred on Thursday, January 15, 2009, the film goes back and forth in time telling the story of how Captain Sullenberger, nicknamed Sully, decided to glide his disabled plane into the freezing waters of the Hudson River. The risky move was necessitated after a huge bird strike took out both the plane’s engines. Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) successfully landed the plane in the river and saved the lives of all 155 aboard. The film shows how the crew and the passengers struggled to stay afloat until they could be rescued.

However, even as Sully is being hailed a hero for his actions by both the media and the public, an investigation is underway into why Sully decided to make an emergency landing in the river instead of trying to make it to an airport runway. It quickly becomes obvious to both Sully and Skiles that the investigators are looking to blame Sully for the loss of the aircraft and seem determined to prove that the “Miracle on the Hudson” – as it is being hailed by the press and the public – actually needlessly endangered everyone on board the flight.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Sully is an engaging and well-crafted film with first-rate performances from its cast. Tom Hanks turns in another memorable performance as Sully, the captain who by doing his job and following his instincts saved everyone on board his plane. He captures perfectly the concern, determination, talent, and professionalism of the pilot who was the right man at the right place at the right time. Hanks also shows how the investigation causes Sully to question himself and his actions and how what happened (and what could have happened) haunts him. It’s another flawless performance by one of the greatest actors of his generation.

Aaron Eckhart shines in his performance as Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles who was right there with Sully during the emergency landing and with him all throughout the investigation. He holds his own with Hanks and captures the charisma and humor in Skiles’ personality as well as the admiration and loyalty he feels for Sully. It becomes quite clear that it’s these two men against the investigation team, and Skiles has Sully’s back all the way. Eckhart really is one of the best character actors of his generation.

Eastwood does a strong job in capturing both the tension and suspense involved with the emergency landing, with that portion of the film having a similar feel to the classic disaster films of the 1950s, like The High and the Mighty or The Last Voyage, or early 1970s disaster epics like Airport. The other half of the film involving the investigation has a Frank Capra-esque feel to it with the two noble, honest men up against a jaded and shallow team of investigators pursuing their own agenda to destroy Sully’s reputation and career with their findings. Eastwood also effectively captures the efforts and heroics from all those involved in saving the crew and passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 from the freezing waters of the Hudson. Ferry captains, NYPD divers, the NYFD, the Red Cross, and others are depicted in Sully, bringing to life the indefatigable spirit of New Yorkers and showing how they come together to help out strangers during a crisis.

With perfect performances from Hanks and Eckhart, top-notch directing by Eastwood, and a compelling story, Sully is the first real crowd-pleasing film of the fall season.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language

Release Date: September 9, 2016

Running Time: 95 minutes