‘Sully’ the feel-good movie of 2016


Tom Hanks (Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger) and Aaron Eckhart (Jeff Skiles) in “Sully.” (Warner Bros. photo)

By Roger Thomas

     Alright, I will say it, “Sully is the feel-good-movie of 2016!” Is that to say it is the best film of the year. No. But is it a film that leaves you feeling good or even great? Absolutely.

     I suppose the most amazing thing about the film, beyond how good it leaves you feeling, is that the story is so engaging. Almost anyone over the age of twelve will remember when the events of this film actually happened. On January 15, 2009, a jet departed from New York heading to Charlotte, North Carolina. Almost immediately after take off part of a flock of birds flew into the engines of the plane. The pilot and co-pilot had to make some serious decisions which ultimately led to the landing of the plane on the Hudson River, or should I say in the Hudson. All 155 crew and passengers survived. Like, I said, a story we all know and remember.

     Whenever a movie tells a recent story that is familiar, the challenge to the filmmaker is find a way to engage the audience even though they know what is coming. Director Clint Eastwood achieves something special. He fully engages the audience mentally and emotionally.

     There is a lot to like about the film.Tom Hanks delivers another wonderful performance in the titler role. He is supported by Aaron Eckhart as the co-pilot Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney as Sully’s wife. Beyond these three, there are quite a few brief moments when members of this large cast shine.

     Then there are the visual effects. Of course, the river landing is a spectacular sequence, visually the heart of the film. But there are other scenes where the visuals are truly unique.

     Every since the trailer has been playing in theaters and on the internet, individuals have asked me about the scenes of the inquiry concerning the decisions that pilots made. The question is why have we not heard about this. My response is always the same, “Why would we hear about that? It is a closed door investigation, why would anyone necessarily share with what happened during the aftermath of the incident?” The “water landing” is the spectacle of this film. The hearings move the plot forward. Needless to say, the hearings ultimately are about responsibility and, more importantly to some, money. Never mind that all 155 people on the plane survived. There was financial loss, therefore, there has to be an investigation. Surely someone is at fault.

     Those scenes during the investigation are skillfully frustrating, but they do not trump that heart of the film. This is a film that reminds anyone paying attention that there is still much goodness in the world. There is a lot of pain, loss, regret and disappointment. But every once in a while, something happens that reminds us, there is a compassion, grace and harmony in the world. There are people who are moved to do the unthinkable, and there are those who seek to assist the risk takers. This is a fine screenplay, and in the midst of the drama, there is some very clever humor. 

     Clint Eastwood has created several films that I really. Oscar-winning Best Picture “Million Dollar Baby” would be my favorite. “Changeling” with Angelina Jolie, would be a close second. Then there are “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Mystic River,” “Unforgiven,” and “Gran Torino.” Just to name my favorites. After seeing “Sully,” I was chatting with a colleague. I asked him to place “Sully” among a list of Eastwood’s two Best Pictures and his latest work. He replied, “Million Dollar Baby, Sully, Unforgiven.” That was exactly the order I was thinking as well. 

     “Sully” is in very good company and once again, it is the “feel-good-movie” of the year.


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