Sully, Clint Eastwood’s latest, tells the well-known story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and the “Miracle on the Hudson”. In dire circumstances after an unprecedented collision with geese, Sully (Tom Hanks) and co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) landed the plane on the Hudson River. Somehow, all crew and passengers survived. This film focuses on the Captain’s struggle to deal with the media and what are surely signs of PTSD and also less interestingly depicts the battle between Sully and pesky National Transportation Safety Board agents who just don’t get it.
The film never really gets going and the stakes are never really established, which is remarkable considering the subject matter, so when the credits roll there’s a strong sense of “that’s it?”. Even with its brief runtime, Sully somehow manages to go by rather slowly but also feel like it’s struggling to find enough story to tell. The landing is very well-done but the way the sequence is used in the film (spoiler alert: it’s used generously) dilutes the impact.
The mediocrity of the film is surprising given the talent on board. It seems like every white supporting actor ever came running to be a part of this film, just to hang with Clint and Tom for a few minutes. Who could blame them? And for the most part, the performances are awesome. Tom Hanks is excellent as expected in a role that seems made for him but the script routinely lets him down. Unfortunately, the script seems strongest during the more uninteresting parts of the film. Eastwood vilifies the media and the NTSB agents to varying degrees of effectiveness, but the film is most compelling when focused on Sully navigating his own life post-landing.
Sully is a great example of a film that is less interesting than the story within it. Landing this plane on the Hudson is the one of the most impressive feats in aviation history and should have translated into a crowd-pleasing feature. While Sully is almost certain to succeed at the box office, audiences should just read news articles from the time and wait for the documentary.