On January 15, 2009, US Airways flight 1549 landed in New York’s Hudson River with 155 people on board and people everywhere witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Rather than focus only on the frightening nature of the flight crashing into the river, director Clint Eastwood diverts the attention away from milking the eventful experience and instead opens the film with the pilot’s testimony and furthering investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board. This is a smart move and, of course, warranted, given the title of the film. “Sully” is a decent film and is neither memorable or terrible.
Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) has been flying for more than forty years. After taking off from LaGuardia Airport, flight 1549 is hit by a flock of birds, causing dual engine failure and loss of altitude. Without proper elevation and loss of control, Sully and first officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) have to think fast. But after landing the plane safely with all on board somehow alive, Sully and Skiles are subjected to investigations that question what they could have done differently and if they could have indeed landed the plane at the nearest airport, which would have been less risky.
The truth is, many will watch this film and peg it as a possible awards contender, but it shouldn’t be. Now, don’t get me wrong, Tom Hanks gives a wonderfully layered performance fueled by guilt, fear, calm and the assurance with which he stands by his actions that fateful day. However, “Sully” doesn’t boast anything that’s particularly memorable besides a story only decently told. The storytelling is grounded but at the same time, Eastwood doesn’t take the time to infuse the film with any real emotional touches that could have taken it up a step. This, in turn, leaves “Sully” a bit on the dull side. It’s solid storytelling but doesn’t allow itself to properly flourish. Many of the film’s subplots and passenger stories, for example, don’t ever amount to anything substantial and there are some script issues that wholly don’t lend anything to the film.
“Sully” can easily be compared to “Flight,” save for the fact that Sully, as a person and character, wasn’t in the wrong. The film is beautifully shot, the non-linear storytelling is mostly worthwhile, and Hanks and Aaron Eckhart have a fine onscreen camaraderie. But it’s Hanks’ performance, nuanced with facial tics and emotional eyes that betray his calm-on-the-outside demeanor, that saves the film from faltering. This is most especially true when Eastwood’s attention strays to the panel investigation at the end, slowing the film down.
It's ultimately Tom Hanks' performance, nuanced with facial tics and emotional eyes that betray his calm-on-the-outside demeanor, that saves the film from faltering.