Sully movie poster
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Sully
Sully movie poster

Sully Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

A few things that the new Clint Eastwood/Tom Hanks movie Sully teaches us about Chesley Sullenberger… you know, that dude who landed a plane in the Hudson, saving all 155 lives onboard:

  1. He is one badass pilot
  2. He can rock a white mustache better than most
  3. He has absolutely no interest in his children
  4. He only has the patience to talk with his wife for 30 seconds at a time
  5. He has no drama in his life outside of this one plane crash… err, forced water landing

I’m going to assume items 3 through 5 are not at all accurate, but Eastwood’s latest drama, which depicts the day of the actual 2009 incident and the investigation that followed, is a weird mix of compelling crash-and-rescue heroics and drama-less filler. The result: an uneven albeit entertaining crowd-pleaser that crashes far short of greatness.

Under four minutes. That’s how long it took for US Airways Flight 1539 to run into a flock of birds--immediately destroying both engines--and force the captain and his crew to attempt a water landing in the busy Hudson river, just miles from LaGuardia Airport. Eastwood’s movie is only 95 minutes, short for most dramas but understandable once you realize how far of a stretch the director takes to try to find any kind of drama outside of the actual crash sequence.

The plane crash itself, and the depiction of the passengers and rescuers, is excellent. It’s why people are going to go see this movie, and Eastwood doesn’t disappoint in this regard. It’s also one of the reasons why Eastwood revisits the same sequence multiple times, from different perspectives.

Everything else is, truly, filler. Sully has hallucinations of his plane crashing into buildings, of Katie Couric saying he’s a failure, and so forth… filler. Sully has random flashbacks to when he was a young pilot, and again when he was a fighter jet pilot… filler. Sully chats with his wife over the phone for brief periods of time before declaring “I have to go,” demonstrating no real interest in talking with his children who oddly reside just out of focus… filler. Laura Linney, trapped in yet another thankless “wife on the other end of the phone” role, does her best to look concerned while having absolutely nothing to do… filler.

And even the scenes where the NTSB officials grill Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) feel forced, as the lead investigators, played by Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn and Jamey Sheridan, try and fail to look overtly serious in the face of a modern miracle.

Filler.

As for Tom Hanks, he’s fine. Due to the lack of real drama--and Sully’s stoicism when under pressure--his character doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity for the actor to flex his muscles. Hanks is a good fit for the role, but no one is going to declare he was amazing in this.

When Eastwood takes us inside the airplane, Sully is solid. When he forces us to watch a bunch of characters talk about the incident in hindsight, it’s pretty bland. Sully has enough entertainment value to be worth a flight, but for a movie that must have Oscar hopes, it takes a nosedive.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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