Opinions generally vary from year to year as to the quality of the BFI member’s Surprise Film. There are many who have never quite forgiven the previous festival director for Whit Stillman’s Damsels In Distress (a movie I actually really enjoyed) and last year’s showing of Anomalisa (which I also loved) split the vote. This year I suspect will be a bit different because Clint Eastwood’s Sully is probably one of the most crowd pleasing movies you’ll ever watch.
And in this instance, I mean that as a compliment. Tom Hanks is Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger (you can understand why he’d go with the nickname), the man responsible for safely landing 155 souls on the Hudson river when an unprecedented bird-strike takes out both engines on his aircraft. If you’re Europe based, you’ll probably vaguely remember this from the news from a few years back. I suspect it’s a bigger deal on the other side of the pond. Sully was hailed as a hero at a time when New York was sorely lacking anything of the sort but that wasn’t the end of his story as air crash investigators sifted through the details of his decision to work out if he did the right thing.
I’m not a big fan of Clint these days. His politics reek and his previous movie made me more angry than entertained (and not the good, documentary style angry), but here he is on safer ground and to be fair to the man, he keeps the God Bless America nonsense in check and presents an entirely workmanlike and serviceable dramatic version of events on that day.
The movie really succeeds though due to one person and that is of course Tom Hanks. Born to play the role of the stoic and experienced captain, he is absolutely note perfect. Bringing his usual gravitas and carefully controlled emotion to the role, he is instrumental in making us invest in a character who we already feel we know everything about. Eastwood too manages to bring some new material to the table and just enough crash footage to give us a reasonable amount of tension, despite the already obvious result. Aaron Eckhart is solid as copilot Jeff Skiles (awesome moustache) and Laura Linney is effective in the usual wife at home fretting role.
On the whole, Sully is a nice change of pace, showing a potential tragedy avoided by every single person doing there job exactly how they should. All the parts click together and the moment when Sully gets the final headcount from the now floating jet is still genuinely moving. A crowd pleaser then but yet another magnificent Hanks performance and it’s nice to come out of a movie every now and again feeling all warm inside. I’m clearly getting old.