Sully: Captain America

For earth to sprout life, a considerable number of precise conditions needed to be met. The survival of the passengers of US Airways Flight 1549 is a bit like that too, as Sully shows. Following a bird strike that causes the loss of the plane’s engines, everything that could potentially go wrong… doesn’t. It’s a film for the optimist. Walking out of the theatre, I experienced the viewer equivalent of a face stuffed with cotton candy. In that sense, Sully acted as the antidote for the wounds I’ve long harboured from experiencing the gut-wrenching United 93. It’s the other side of the coin.

The film recounts the US 1549 emergency landing on the Hudson River — not in, as the First Officer Jefferey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) cheekily points out — and the ensuing investigation. Sully’s not so much about the crash (though you get to see it in IMAX grandeur at least thrice); it is about the little-known details of the investigation launched into finding out if Captain Sully Sullenberger (Tom Hanks in top form) could have done better. The filmis full of such delicious ironies. The Captain has saved 155 lives, but could he have saved them without damage to the aircraft—a fact that is of great interest to the insurance company? Could he have avoided risking their lives in the first place? Captain Sully may have emerged triumphant against the Canadian geese, and the Hudson, but can his human frailties overcome the cold computer simulations that seem to suggest that his choice wasn’t the best under the circumstances? What about the irony of being regarded as a national hero, even as an internal investigation threatens to countermine the achievements of a 40-year-old career? In Sully’s own words, “I’ve flown millions during the 40 years of my career. But I’m going to be judged on 208 seconds.” Is Sully “a hero or a fraud?” A question that haunts his nightmares.

Genre: Biography
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Storyline: The story of Captain Sullenberger who became a national hero after safely landing a plane on the Hudson
Sully’s among the most satisfying films I’ve seen. It’s a nerd’s playground, an inquirer’s paradise. Tyler Durden may have scoffed at the utility of safety demonstrations in airplanes, but Sully hadn’t been released then. It’s gratifying that the accident is shown from several perspectives—of those within the flight, of the person manning a Coast Guard ship on the Hudson, of the traumatised air-traffic controller who blames himself for the crash… even of a man in a skyscraper adjoining the Hudson. It’s comprehensive, a word that interestingly, I wouldn’t quite use when describing the depiction of Captain Sully’s problems. I’d have loved for the film to show us a bit more of Sully, the person; a bit more of the PTSD that he’s apparently struggling with; and definitely a bit more of his relationship with his wife (a horribly under-used Laura Linney). The attempts at humanising the plane’s passengers are also half-hearted at best, necessitating the narrator to explain how 155 (the number of passengers) may seem like a number, but when you remember they had names and relationships, it begins to seem like a lot more.

But these only cause minor turbulence in an otherwise unfussy journey that is littered with many delightful little moments. I loved that Sully’s wife learns very late that her husband’s flight journey has become an issue of national importance. It’s also fascinating how Sully, who retains his composure through an almost impossible emergency water landing, seems ruffled in a media interaction. Tom Hanks is wonderful in these scenes, and betrays just the right amount of discomfort, without once overstating it. Similarly understated is the music. The piano bits quietly, effectively slip into the background, much like Jefferey Skiles himself likeably does, during the accident and its aftermath.

Thanks to Sully, I now know — as much as there is to be known safely at least — what it must be like to be part of a incapacitated plane. Isn’t that why we go to films, after all? So, we can live the compelling lives of others… at least briefly.

This review was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.


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