Most people know the story of “The Miracle on the Hudson.” On Jan. 15, 2009, birds crashed into the engines of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 out of LaGuardia Airport in New York, and the pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, had to make a split-second decision. In the end, he landed the plane in the Hudson River and saved the lives of its 155 passengers.
Most people don’t know the aftermath, though, which is where Sully comes in. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as the titular pilot, the film dramatizes the ensuing investigation, in which Sully was harshly scrutinized by the National Transportation Safety Board as the public praised him as a hero.
Sully screened at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado this week, and EW’s Chris Nashawaty is still surprised that the story is now a prestige film. “And yet, it’s an effectively thrilling story of quietly unassuming, can-do American heroism,” he writes, “the kind, sadly, we don’t get to witness much these days.”
Read more reviews of Sully, which also stars Aaron Eckhart and Laura Linney, below.
Chris Nashawaty (Entertainment Weekly)
“Still, the reason why the movie works at all is Hanks. I can’t imagine it airing anywhere but on Lifetime without him. On the page, Sullenberger is a pretty vanilla, one-dimensional character. A cipher with wings pinned to his chest. There’s nothing inherently cinematic about him. But Hanks, of course, brings a career’s worth of excellence, depth, good will, and trust-me assurance to the story that isn’t necessarily in Todd Komarnicki’s script. As in last year’s equally hagiographic Bridge of Spies, he doesn’t give a flashy performance or go big in the way most actors would. He knows there’s power in subtlety, in quiet, in the unspoken gesture — the words that aren’t spoken. He knows that less can often be more. Like Sully, he’s the kind of guy you want behind the controls.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“This is Hanks’ show, and he delivers a typically strong performance, quickly allowing us to forget that we’re watching an actor. With his snowy white hair and moustache to match, Hanks conveys a man confident in his abilities, yet humble in his actions, which could also be said of Eastwood as a director. As unfussy as ever, Eastwood juggles the script’s odd chronology-bending structure, steering by his central character’s conscience throughout, while supplying another of his simple piano scores, which doubles as the melody for end-credits song ‘We’re All Flying Home’ — though if ever there was a film that called for ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings,’ this is it.”
Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“With Sully, Clint Eastwood digs behind that astonishing visual, providing a compelling assessment of the eerie moments leading up to it. With Tom Hanks appropriately cast as good-natured Sully, Eastwood delivers an earnest, straightforward look at the way the captain’s professionalism saved the day. But while that aspect of the movie hits more than a few obvious notes, the crash is the real star of the show.”
Robert Abele (The Wrap)
“…while the visual effects are first rate — Eastwood’s always been a pro at using CGI as a means rather than as the end — there’s a lively, hard-to-ignore subtext here, wherein an 86-year-old classicist filmmaker tells the story of an experienced captain, still alive because of his confident human instincts, under threat by an industry’s over-reliance on computer simulation. Sully, an honest, skillful rumination on what makes a hero, is just one more example of how Eastwood, having directed movies only slightly longer than his protagonist had been flying planes, is still a masterful pilot himself.
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
“An elegant and eloquent docudrama, Clint Eastwood’s 35th feature as a director is also, at 96 minutes, the shortest of all his films, which well serves this to-the-point account of a potential tragedy with a happy ending. With a white-haired and mustachioed Tom Hanks in the title role, this taut, upbeat drama looks to play well with a wide general audience.”
Tim Grierson (ScreenDaily)
“An unabashed salute to real-life heroism, Sully rivetingly recreates the daring 2009 emergency water landing in New York’s Hudson River executed by American airline pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger. As with his unlikely box-office smash American Sniper, director Clint Eastwood decorates his protagonist with a noble crown that sometimes sits heavy on his head, and Tom Hanks gives the character a soft-spoken, conflicted dignity. Though not always as confident outside of the cockpit, Sully mostly earns its crowd-pleasing, lump-in-your-throat sentiment.”
Sully lands in theaters on Sep. 9. See the trailer below.