SULLY is a 2016 cinematic production based on the real life story of the captain who deftly commandeered and landed the ill-fated Airbus 320 flight on the Hudson River in New York, saving the lives of all the passengers and the crew. Directed in a simple straightforward manner by the 88 year old Clint Eastwood, and embellished by a simple straightforward performance by Tom Hanks, this movie scores well. The fact that there was a huge wave of public sympathy for the real life performance of the pilot of the airliner certainly heightens the feel good factor of the movie. Who wouldn’t want to take the side of a wrongly accused good soul? But at the end of it, SULLY remains a tepid affair. The technical simplifications and the sudden change in the stance of NTSB (National Transportation and Safety Board) as presented in the movie seem to stem from the need to appeal to a larger cross-section of the audience.
The reader may wonder as to why instead of just SULLY in the title of this write-up, I have called it SULLY AND FLIGHT. Surely it couldn’t have been because the movie is about how SULLY handled that FLIGHT!!
Actually, it is about another movie called FLIGHT that was released in 2012. Starring Denzel Washington and directed by the stalwart Robert Zemeckis (who directed the award winning Tom Hanks starrer FORREST GUMP), this movie is based on a fictitious story. And, since I saw both these movies in the span of the last three days, I couldn’t help but compare both these movies and write a combined review. Just like in SULLY, Denzel plays the role of a pilot who commandeers an ill-fated flight plagued by mechanical failure. And in both the movies, it so happens that but for the brilliance of the pilots and their actions, the accidents would have resulted in a large number of fatalities. In the case of SULLY, there wasn’t a single fatality; in FLIGHT, four casualties occur. And in both the cases, NTSB initially takes a stand initially of holding the pilots responsible for the losses suffered. The similarities stop there. Unlike SULLY who is painted to be the “good” person and pilot, Captain Whitaker in FLIGHT is painted as the “bad” person and a “good” pilot. And aided by the sharp direction and characterization by Robert Zemeckis, Denzel turns out an outstanding performance. I saw the uncensored version of FLIGHT on Apple TV and the scenes of nudity and repeated usage of cuss words doesn’t detract from the superb dramatic presentation. Notwithstanding the fact that I have a great regard for Tom Hanks as an outstanding actor, I couldn’t but help think that while Denzel would have done just as well as Tom Hanks in SULLY, Tom Hanks may not have done as well as Denzel in FLIGHT.
Do not miss out on both these movies!!
RATING: SULLY: 4 out of 5
RATING: FLIGHT: 4.5 out of 5