An obvious, mostly uninteresting hagiography, seemingly cut from the Ron Howard playbook of making something out of nothing. Except “Sully” wasn’t directed by Mr. Howard, it was helmed by the prolific Clint Eastwood. And with his fourth biopic in 5 years, even he must have realized that he had a thin layer of material. 2011’s “J. Edgar”, 2014’s “Jersey Boys”, and the same year’s “American Sniper”, all clocked in at over two hours. “Sully” is stretched like taffy to barely reach 90 minutes. There’s not much there there, plus it’s all rather uncomplicated. Is there any real argument that pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is a hero? No…none at all. But Mr. Eastwood, and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki, work hard to create one. You could chop this thing down to a third of its run time, and achieve the same results. But I do like Hanks here. He gives the movie more gravitas than it deserves.
Is there anyone that doesn’t know this story? I mean, I do live right outside of the NYC area–but c’mon. This was WORLD news. On January 15, 2009, Captain Sullenberger (Mr. Hanks), along with First Officer Jeffrey Skiles (a criminally under-utilized, Aaron Eckhart), piloted a US Airways flight out of LaGuardia Airport, and almost immediately struck a flock of birds. It blew out both engines. 155 souls on board. Turn back to LaGuardia? Make a move towards my home state of New Jersey, and attempt to land at Teterboro Airport? Sully decides neither is possible, and chooses a radical move. He’ll attempt a landing of a commercial airliner on the frigid Hudson River. With the words, “we’ll be in the Hudson”, air traffic control morbidly assumes that all on board are about to perish. But Sullenberger and Skiles pull it off! They not only land the damn thing, but every single person survives. Incredible. Moving. Inspirational. There’s no question about it. So, stuff gets inserted. It’s a fatal flaw.
So, the film is barely worthwhile, but 60-year-old Tom Hanks mines every last drop of drama out of this thing. He holds this paper-thin material together as much as he can. It’s a strong performance. It’s not “Captain Phillips”, but it will do. But the movie is mostly unnecessary. Scenes inside the plane? Quite good. Forced phone conversations between Sully and his wife, Lorraine (Laura Linney…and talk about “phoned in”)? Ugh. Sully reacting to the near disaster? Well calibrated. Sully having hallucinations about crashing into midtown Manhattan? Complete overkill. Painting the NTSB investigators as a bunch of buzzkills, for making sure they didn’t have a reckless hot-shot on their hands? Just plain silly. And the filmmakers apparently took some flack for it. It nearly sinks the whole thing. I mean, of course everyone is going to come around and espouse “yay Sully!”. It’s lazy. Highly polished lazy. Watch it win an armful.