Clint Eastwood returns to direct the story of another “American hero,” this time stepping away from military snipers and instead choosing the narrative of a pilot. Specifically, the tale of how an A320 Airbus miraculously landed on the Hudson River, and the challenges that faced the man who flew it there. But is this true story better as a full-length film, or should it have remained a news report?
In 2009, Captain Chesley Sullenberger, along with a flight crew, managed to save the lives of 150 passengers after a massive bird strike. They did the impossible and were able to evacuate the plane after almost sinking it into the Hudson River, away from one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. However, what isn’t exactly public knowledge, were the rigorous interrogations that awaited Sully and First Officer Skiles after their amazing feat. Because even when everyone lives, someone still has to be blamed. And this is where most of the film takes place.
Unlike what you’d probably expect, the film is laid out in a somewhat non-linear way. It doesn’t begin with the incident and then moves to the aftermath, but instead shows Sully afterwards, with regular flashbacks to what caused his current predicament. It’s an interesting way to tell the story but ultimately feels contrived. If you’re not a fan of drama, the film’s one trick will be the thrilling crash scene. So instead of giving it to us in a meal, the filmmakers have chosen to provide only a few bites at a time during the 96-minute runtime. In fact, a good amount of scenes do feel like filler. There are a couple rewinds back to Sully’s past as a young man, but none of them serve to enhance the character beyond what we’ve already seen.
Sully himself, is portrayed here by the eternally likeable Tom Hanks. While the actor isn’t given much to do when it comes to emotional weight, he is able to put on display how stressful this kind of situation would be on a normal man. Sully is actually someone I came to respect as the movie went on, as an intelligent side was shown in regards to his knowledge around aviation and aviation safety. There’s also no reason to dislike him, seeing as he does nothing wrong. However, that may be a flaw if you were looking for a protagonist who might’ve been more morally questionable. There’s no doubt in my mind that if that was the case, the movie would’ve been more engaging since the audience would have had to figure out whether or not he was guilty in endangering the lives of his passengers. But the movie sticks close to real life, and the real world Sully was generally just a good guy.
Aaron Eckhart is second in command, and he pulls off the role of a charming co-pilot quite well. Out of the two men in the cockpit that day, he is easily the more entertaining one to watch. Overall, the performances here range from fine to great with not much in between. Unfortunately, even though every character is played well, not all of them are exactly needed in the story. For example, Sully’s wife is used only for a few scenes, and in them she is just the cliché wife character who worries for her husband’s safety. Furthermore, some of the NTSB (National Transport Safety Board) members are also strangely acted out as a sort of antagonist, who twirl their moustaches at the idea of Sully falling from grace.
But what the movie truly does excel at, is the aforementioned crash scene. Although it is stringed out across the film, the steady pace of the plane’s descent into chaos is a marvel to watch. Even while knowing the outcome, tension climbs higher as the plane gets lower to the ground and closer to the Hudson. Once it finally lands, everyone inside scrambles to survive and get out of the drowning vehicle. The shots of passengers and crew huddling atop wings and rafts, are both harrowing and beautiful to look at. The filmmakers must’ve also thought it was a beautiful scene too, which is probably why they included some piano music over a section in the sequence. Suddenly the music went from an accelerating drumbeat to a sombre piano piece, which ended up being quite a bit irksome and cheesy.
What the film Sully reminds me of most, is of a movie that I’d catch on television some random night. It’s the kind of flick that would engross me until the end, and then leave me with a good sleep feeling pleasantly satisfied. But is that really worth a costly movie ticket? Well really it depends on your interest in the subject matter. I’d recommend it to anyone who followed the story back in 2009 and wants to see it brought to life on screen. Sully has fine acting, some great scenes, and genuinely ends on a positive note. However, there are also a good amount of faults concerning narrative structure, and the overall execution of characters who weren’t Sully or Skiles. But I reckon that if you’re at least interested in seeing it, you’ll probably have a good time sitting through. If not, then watch it when it comes to Netflix or another service, and you’ll still have a good time.
Sully Is A Good Movie