I decided to go to my favorite movie theater with a visiting friend to see the Clint Eastwood’s new drama Sully starring Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, about the 2009 Miracle on the Hudson, you may remember this from the news. Tom Hanks plays Captain Sullenberger — who, after taking off, experiences complete loss of power in his aircraft due to a bird strike and decides to ditch his plane in the Hudson River. He succeeds, which I hope is not a spoiler for anyone! The rest of the film deals with Sully enduring doubts about his actions in the subsequent NTSB investigation.
The main thought I have about Sully is that the movie is almost obsessively concise. The film starts with a dramatic worst-case scenario played out in Sully’s head during a dream. The actual water landing is shown in a series of interlocking flashbacks with the drama of the investigation. Tom Hanks delivers his performance as the embattled everyman and everyone else is there pretty much to support him or denigrate him in the course of the movie. The film has a clear A to B sort of structure. Sully lands the plane, is hailed as a hero, has doubts as the investigation progresses, we have some insights into his home life, there is a hearing where he exonerates himself. Then a joke by the dependable Aaron Eckhart (who plays his copilot) and the movie is over.
My friend joked that the movie was so concise because Clint Eastwood is getting older and does not want to sit through longer movies. I think that actually might be the reason. The drama in the movie is mostly of the actual event which is quite an amazing and harrowing event. Captain Sullenberger is no doubt a hero. However I wish the movie had more meat on it. The movie plays more as a docudrama, which as a fan of history I really enjoy, but I think it left me wanting more. I feel the movie is a little handicapped by Eastwood and his commitment to show the heroism of his American subjects. I personally do believe his movies shows this heroism (like the controversial American Sniper, which I enjoyed) but I feel that sometimes the movie is less than it could have been. TE Lawrence was no doubt a hero, but a straight telling of his story would not have the artistry that the famed Lawrence of Arabia had (or its 3-hour runtime.)
“Sully” tells a good story because it’s true, but sometimes a story embellished can illuminate a hero even better than just the facts. So I guess I’ll just have to watch Robert Zemecki’s Flight again to be satisfied. All in all I say this movie is worth the watch, but on home rental.