As we near the time of the year when the movies take a turn for the dramatic and the award stakes get higher, the first film vying for entry into the field is the newest offering from Clint Eastwood about the Miracle on the Hudson and the miracle maker, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.
Starring Tom Hanks, this “based on a true story” film seeks to recreate the events during and immediately after the landing on the Hudson River that saved so many lives in a time, as mentioned in the film, when New York hadn’t had a positive aviation related story in years.
For those unfamiliar, the landing on the Hudson River of US Airways Flight 1549 occurred after losing power in both engines due to a bird strike after departing from LaGuardia. After realizing that they could not land back at LaGuardia or make the attempt to land at Teterboro Airport due to loss of altitude, the flight deck crew ditched the airplane in the Hudson River off midtown Manhattan. All 155 on board the plane survived.
With an admirable cast led by the ever impressive Tom Hanks and an increasingly dependable Aaron Eckhart, “Sully” represents the latest attempt by Hollywood to recapture the best moment of humanity on reel. While a remarkable tale, Eastwood does not utilize more of the after-effects of the events to flesh out his film. As a result, “Sully” suffers from a pacing that, while moving the story along to its short 96-minute conclusion, is overfilled with dream sequences, rehashing of the landing, and interludes with Sully and his externally expressed internal struggles with the events that simply don’t serve to give the film more meat. Had Eastwood incorporated more of Sully’s subsequent aviation advocate work throughout the half-decade after the crash, perhaps it would have shown the few ways the events of that day had a far-reaching effect on aviation regulations and history, and done more to fill out the story.
That being said, “Sully” is still a film with tension, emotion and remarkable effects work to render the landing. It may not be on many “Best Picture” ballots come awards season, but Hanks, and his co-star Aaron Eckhart, deserve recognition for their portrayals of men tasked with a far greater responsibility than they had ever imagined and who responded with the clarity of mind to save those lives that day and remain strong when faced with consequences outside their control.