Tom Hanks as Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger is the example of perfect Hollywood casting. A modern-day Jimmy Stewart and one of the most likable actors in the history of motion pictures, Hanks simply embodies all the qualities of the real-life captain that made a split decision to land US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 15th, 2009. The events of that day and the subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board are revisited in Clint Eastwood's comprehensive and entertaining Sully.
It's not much a of a stretch for Hanks to take on the role of an unassuming, professional, selfless captain. In fact, he's played a captain many times in his career (Captain Phillips and Captain John Miller - Saving Private Ryan). Thankfully, Hanks is on top of his game once his hair is dyed white and he dons the trademark mustache. Hanks IS Sully and it happens in the first frame of the film. This movie covers all aspects of the crash into the Hudson, jumping back in forth in time and covering all angles of the incident. The real-time crash itself is brilliantly shot by Eastwood with an unfiltered look at the major players (pilots, stewardesses, air traffic controllers, NYC rescue workers) that banded together to prevent disaster. It's obvious that Eastwood is trying to make an authentic NYC film, highlighting the spirit and resolve of the men and women who work tirelessly to keep the citizens safe. Even more poignant was having the opportunity to view this on the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
Aaron Eckhart is very good as Sully's co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles, who was able to be there to support his captain both during the crash and in the hot seat while the NTSB conducted their investigation. Laura Linney plays Sully's wife whom we only see communicating with him via phone. Still, Linney manages to give a solid performance as a concerned wife who tries to comfort her husband from afar. Hanks is the real star here though. This movie is nothing without him. I'm pretty sure Tom will end up getting his 6th!?!? Oscar nod next year. This is not his best-ever performance but it is one of his most effortless one. He eases into this role and is able to emote concern, regret, doubt and authority all at the same time. The audience is with Tom through this entire journey and we never doubt his intentions and authenticity along the way.
This movie is gripping at times and an interesting dissection of the role of the NTSB and the media in shaping the narrative of a real American hero. The biggest drawback I had with the movie is that the jumping around in the timeline seemed to be more distracting than anything. I would have enjoyed it more if Eastwood had played the events in sequence (as Paul Greengrass did in the excellent and superior United 93). In reality though, that's just a small blemish in an otherwise excellent movie. A strong 4 out of 5 JRs for Sully, one of Eastwood's better films and a reminder that the 60-year-old who starred in Bosom Buddies might be the most talented living actor we have.