Sully (2016)
Sully (2016)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: September 9th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Clint Eastwood Actors: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Holt McCallany, Mike O’Malley

 


 

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n January 15th, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) face an unheard-of crisis. When their Airbus A320 is struck by a flock of geese that renders both engines inactive, Sully chooses to attempt an emergency water landing in the Hudson River rather than return to LaGuardia Airport. After his efforts successfully save the lives of all 155 people aboard the plane, he is initially hailed a hero and the event is dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.” But as the National Transportation Safety Board launches an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident, and asserts that one engine was still operable, Sully begins to question whether or not he endangered the lives of the crew and passengers with his split-second decision.

The major problem in turning the defining moment of Sullenberger’s career into a feature-length film resides in the duration of the incident itself and in editing that into a dramatic wake. It may have been a notable, miraculous, once-in-a-lifetime event, but it was essentially only 208 seconds (a number repeated regularly onscreen). To drag out this suspenseful, significant moment, the descent and the forced water landing (or crash, as the survivors describe it) are shown again and again from different angles and from varying perspectives. But the outcome is always the same and the fears over the head count and whether or not proper protocol were followed can’t muster the murder/mystery vibe the film attempts to raise – chiefly because of the press coverage of the real ordeal, which has saturated public knowledge. Had extensive casualties been incurred, or had Sully been pronounced a reckless drunk, Flight 1549 certainly wouldn’t have been regarded as a miracle. And Sully wouldn’t have been called a hero.

The narrative is a mess of flashbacks, nightmares, daydreams, simulations of the unprecedented circumstances, and several very unnecessary additives. It begins with scenes mirroring the litigious showdown from “The Social Network,” as lawyers and union reps encircle a meeting room to depose the captain and his first officer, attempting to shape clearcut protagonists and antagonists along with truths and lies. When it takes approximately 30 minutes before “Sully” introduces the first salient passenger (given lines of dialogue, interactions with family members, and even flirtations with the boarding pass attendant), it’s obvious that every subsequent character is just padding to inflate and sensationalize the investigation and aftermath. All the specific passengers bestowed with speaking roles and personalities quickly become more pointless when it’s revealed that not a single one had any impact or influence on Sully’s choices (even the traffic control tower gets in on the drama through additional personas, close-ups, conversations, and tears).

This biopic is little more than a reenactment of the landing, with no character arcs, shocking discoveries about Sully’s life, or revelations about the state of the aircraft. The only real villains or sources of conflict are the insurance company goons, who wish to turn heroic happenings into carelessness that can somehow equal dollars unpaid; frequent phone calls that hint at marital complications or money predicaments lead nowhere; and depressed participants who routinely ramble, reiterate, and reminisce about repetitious footage from the accident. Even penultimate flashbacks tend to draw out the conclusion, rather than wrap up quandaries.

There’s simply not enough material here for an entire film – let alone one that can adapt the typical ups and downs of a tragedy or character study. The 24-minute rescue (perhaps filmed here to be nearly real time) is the most intriguing part of the picture (though any tenseness is mostly subdued by obvious end results), as it demonstrates a touch of that classic coming together of so many discrepant groups of people and professionals to achieve a common goal. “Sully” is incomplex and short, which just might perfectly contrast the upcoming “Deepwater Horizon,” certain to aggrandize the individual situations and players in that colossal crisis.

– The Massie Twins

  • 4/10