Disclaimer: I have aviophobia, i.e. fear of flying.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first all-round Oscar contender here. Actually, just give Tom Hanks the Oscar now for Best Actor. Clint Eastwood will also almost definitely at least get a nomination for Best Director. Terrifyingly realistic and realistically touching without being overly schmaltzy or excessively melodramatic, Sully was smartly directed and superbly acted, hooking the audience in from the get go all the way to the end of its 96 minutes run.
After a few misfires with Hereafter and J. Edgar, followed by the fun, but lightweight and mismatched, Jersey Boys, and the politically-charged American Sniper, Eastwood finally returns to form that saw him won the Best Director for Million Dollar Baby.
Eastwood made a lot of smart directorial choices here and most importantly in how to tell the story. He smartly focused on the Captain Sullenberger and not the trigger event itself, and by doing so, when it finally happened, we become more invested in the characters.
And at the same time, Eastwood had also wisely chosen to stay clear of over-dramatising the situation, but yet he had wisely peppered a few moments throughout to bring out the human factor.
Eastwood presented the whole incident as calmly as Cpt Sully was in managing the situation, and with that he injected realism and removed unnecessary histrionics that would have otherwise marred the experience. And that experience was terrifying. Terri-f***-ing-fying (see disclaimer). Which really made the moment of rescue all that much satisfying, touching and believable.
Then we have Hanks. He really did topped himself here, digging really deep into the character and disappearing. Cpt Sully's fears, anxieties, pride and confidence all became his own. We follow him throughout the film and as we slowly get to know him, our feelings evolved with the film. Without keeping too much away, minor spoilers ahead, we loved him, we doubt him, then we root for him again. Brilliant!
Aaron Eckhart holds his own against Hanks and gave a confident performance, but unfortunately not in the same calibre as Mark Rylance award-winning performance last year opposite Hanks in Spielberg's Bridge of Spies. Depending on the rest of the year, the Supporting Actor race may or may not have space for him.
Laura Linney (again we see her, after Genius...I really hope she is making a comeback) provides the emotional anchor for Hanks, and also the audience surrogate.
Then we have Anna Gunn and a few character actors, like Mike O'Malley, Jamey Sheridan and Chris Bauer, maintaining the calibre of acting.
Not to say that this film was flawless. The screenplay by Todd Komarnicki had some moments of trite fictionalising dramatic trope, but the brilliant cast easily helped to mask it over.
The film was shot almost entirely in IMAX digital cameras by Tom Stern and it showed. It really ought to be watched in an IMAX theatre. The experience was well worth it.
A definite Oscar contender and a great start to this year's awards race.