This “Sully” never soars.
The story of the Miracle on the Hudson should be cleared for takeoff. It has Tom Hanks in the pilot’s seat, radiating everyman decency. And he’s flying a course carefully laid out by director Clint Eastwood.
So why does the film remain earthbound?
After all, Hanks is perfect as Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, playing the kind of based-on-a-real-guy hero he gave us in “Bridge of Spies” and “Captain Phillips.” And Eastwood is his usual don’t-waste-a-shot self. The film barely lasts an hour-and-a-half.
How Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger rescued Tom Hanks during filming
Maybe that’s the problem with the movie. There’s not enough movie.
That fateful flight was certainly packed with drama, but the crisis only took a few minutes — and thanks to Sully, didn’t have the violent finale of the fictional crash in “Flight.” Try as Eastwood can, he can’t make a whole picture out of it.
So we get some shots of a post-crisis Sully having nightmares and hallucinations. Too many scenes of him on the phone with his worried wife. And a subplot — which eventually becomes the entire plot — of how he was second-guessed by bureaucrats who wondered if he’d made the right decisions.
But there’s not much drama there either; we all know he did. And so the movie wastes a lot of time with Sully looking impatient, and the National Transportation Safety Board hacks looking like every idiot mayor who ever chewed out Dirty Harry.
That angle appeals to Eastwood — the unappreciated American hero — but it doesn’t provide much conflict. Even with strong support from Aaron Eckhart as his co-pilot, and Laura Linney as the spouse back in the house, Hanks is just left up in the air, alone.
He’s easy to watch of course. And there’s something satisfying in a story about regular people — pilots, ferryboat captains, cops, flight attendants — all calmly doing their jobs. Sully himself frequently credited everyone — including the passengers — for what he was able to do.
But “Sully” remains strictly a solo flight. It never takes us along for the ride.Send a Letter to the Editor