Telluride Film Festival: ‘Sully’ could land Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood in Oscar race

Clint Eastwood‘s biopic “Sully” opened the 43rd edition of the Telluride Film Festival on Friday and proved to be a real crowd pleaser. The film, shot in IMAX 3-D, tells the true story of Chesley Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who landed a plane in the Hudson river in 2009 after it lost power when struck by a flock of birds on take-off. Tom Hanks plays the titular hero with Aaron Eckhart on-board as his co-pilot Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney as his loyal wife Lorraine, who stands by him when government officials question his decision.

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This marks Eastwood’s first trip to this small-town filmfest since 1990 when he screened “White Hunter, Black Heart,” a fictionalized version of the making of “The African Queen.” That 1951 classic won Humphrey Bogart his only Oscar and was the fourth of five films he made with John Huston who picked up bids for both directing and writing. “Sully” marks the first collaboration between Eastwood and Hanks and could well bring both of them back to the Oscars.

Hanks is a two-time Best Actor champ (“Philadelphia” in 1993, “Forrest Gump” in 1994) and one of only five actors to win awards back-to-back; the others were Spencer Tracy, Luise Rainer, Katharine Hepburn and Jason Robards. Hanks is one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars and overall a five-time nominee, but despite his consistent popular and critical success he hasn’t contended for an Oscar for 16 years. His last bid was for “Cast Away” (2000), in which he coincidentally played another man who survives a rough landing: a FedEx employee stranded on a deserted island following a plane crash. Hanks wasn’t even nominated for the recent Best Picture-nominees he headlined: “Captain Phillips” (2013) and “Bridge of Spies” (2015).

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Director Eastwood is just as beloved, if not even more so. He has won four Oscars: Best Picture and Best Director for both “Unforgiven” (1992) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004). Those Oscar successes were 12 years apart, and it’s been 12 years since “Baby,” so perhaps he’s due another turn in the winner’s circle. Between writing, producing and acting, he’s been nominated a total of 11 times. His most recent was a Best Picture bid for the controversial true story “American Sniper.”

This Warner Bros. film opens in wide release on Sept. 9. Do you think “Sully” will be an Oscar contender? Check out some of the rave reviews below, and then be sure to make your Oscar predictions HERE. Don’t worry, you can keep changing your predictions right up until Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 24.

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Peter Debruge (Variety): “This is Hanks’ show, and he delivers a typically strong performance, quickly allowing us to forget that we’re watching an actor. With his snowy white hair and moustache to match, Hanks conveys a man confident in his abilities, yet humble in his actions, which could also be said of Eastwood as a director. As unfussy as ever, Eastwood juggles the script’s odd chronology-bending structure, steering by his central character’s conscience throughout, while supplying another of his simple piano scores.”

Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter): “Crisply shot by Tom Stern in great part with IMAX cameras and seen to impressive advantage in this format, the film is distinguished by essentially seamless visual effects that make all aspects of the highly photogenic near-catastrophe riveting to watch; the film is supremely well-crafted in all regards … Made up to look older than his years, Hanks confidently carries the film as a man of undoubted decency and judgment who is nonetheless made to question, however incorrectly and briefly, actions prudently made under conditions of great stress.”

Eric Kohn (IndieWire): “There’s some modicum of intrigue to the way Todd Komarnicki’s screenplay (adapted from Sullenberger’s book) captures the pilot’s shrewd ability to explain his actions, despite the committee’s insistence that computer programs show he could have landed elsewhere. And Hanks lands a few evocative reaction shots as Sully wanders New York City surrounded by media reports of his achievement, unable to accept what he has done.”

Robert Abele (The Wrap): “Actor/role matching has rarely been as ideally suited as Hanks is for Sullenberger.  Here he brings a simmering disquiet and almost Eastwood-ian compression to Sully that colors this veteran of the air as much as his easygoing authority and kindness. It’s a portrait of a man defined by being good at his job, not looking to play hero, and it comes through whether enduring tough questions from the NTSB, or — during the landing sequence, in the moments after reaching the dock — fending off a hungry media glare until he knows every passenger is accounted for and safe. He’s aided by Aaron Eckhart doing his best work in years as Sully’s wisecracking, righteously supportive co-pilot Jeff Skiles, and Laura Linney, who takes the thankless phone-wife role and squeezes in enough contours to suggest a solid marriage under emotional and financial duress.”

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