Before we begin, let me just point out that the actions made by Chelsey Sullenberger were extraordinary. After loosing both engines, Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. The efforts made by the rescue groups of New York were equally extraordinary. It took less than a half hour to get everybody off the Hudson River and not a single person lost their life in the process. That in itself is a miracle. Its a great little story, but how does it work as a film?
Clint Eastwood has now become a new Woody Allen. He churns out a new movie every year. While many movies he's made are good, the ratio of unmemorable films to memorable films is wildly off-balance. I can barely remember the last time I was deeply moved by a Clint Eastwood movie. He doesn't make movies for everybody in the audience anymore, he makes movies for your grandparents. The movies Eastwood makes are mild-mannered, sanitized, and completely devoid of any stakes or tension. That is the biggest problem with "Sully." It is an uneventful, unexciting affair and I find it hard to believe that we are supposed to give into the IMax experience of "Sully," which features the most tension-free plane crash in the history of movies.
Thankfully, "Sully" is short, clocking in at just under an hour and a half. Good, because I don't know if I could handle a two and a half hour version of this. But honestly, I don't know how Eastwood could have pulled that off. Sullenberger deserved all the famous claim he got. But let's be real, he saved lots of people, he was declared a hero, he was in the spotlight for a while, then he vanished back to his normal life. Nothing else came of it, nothing much happened during it, there was no scandal or secrets, or skeletons in closets. So why is Eastwood selling this as the "untold story behind the miracle at Hudson River?" Nothing big ever came out of this story. We know that not only do things go well in the movie, but they get as close to perfect as possible. Nothing of consequence happens in this movie, so why make it at all?
So what does happen is "Sully?" Well Tom Hanks plays Sullenberger and its an honest, fulfilling performance. But Hanks is barely given anything to do. He jogs a lot at night. He keeps having flashbacks, seemingly nightmarish visions of what could have gone wrong with the landing, even though he ended up saving everyone's life. This is all fodder though, killing time until Sullenberger and his First Officer Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) have to go into court to prove that there was no other way to land the plane. The court scene is so bland and drama-free that it almost passes as comedy. The court says one thing, then Sully says another, and that's it. That's the entire final stretch of the movie. There is no effort made in actually making Sully into a character, he has maybe two meaningless scenes of his early days of being a pilot, but we get no impact of how and why Sully wanted to be a pilot. There is somewhat of a relationship made between Sully and his wife (Laura Linney), but all Linney and Hanks really do is act into a phone at each other. We never really get why their relationship matters, and they could have edited out Sully's family completely. They already did a great job of making that aspect of his life invisible.
This movie could have benefitted from some kind of conflict, but since we know how well everything goes in the end, there is none. No matter how good Hanks and Eckhart are, this is a classic case of merely going through the motions. With a movie that has no conflict, can we really label "Sully" as a drama? Now that I have reflected on it, I really can't believe how disappointed I am by the whole affair. An 82% at Rotten Tomatoes is being awfully generous to a film that didn't really need to be made and won't matter by the time December rolls around. And again, that plane crash scene? Nap-inducing, seriously.
FINAL GRADE: C-