Release date: 2nd December 2016/Watch the trailer here
Sully is based on the miraculous true story of Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, an American pilot who became an instant hero in 2009 after successfully landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River and saving all 155 lives of the flight’s passengers and crew. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film goes beyond the crash and subsequent rescue and focuses on the aftermath of 15th January, as Sully (Tom Hanks) and First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Unfortunately, Hanks and Eckhart sitting in hearings and watching countless simulations of US Airways Flight 1549 (to determine whether or not it could have landed safely at LaGuardia Airport instead following its engine failure) can only be so interesting. The real spectacle of Sully is the water landing itself, but given that it took place over the space of just a couple of minutes, there’s not really enough there to fill an entire feature-length film. As it is, even by padding out the runtime with the NTSB investigation and by showing the crash multiple times, Sully only comes in at a little over ninety minutes.
Credit where credit is due, however: the landing of the plane on the Hudson and the unbearably tense minutes leading up to it are far and away the highlight of Sully. Eastwood has succeeded in creating suspense despite the fact that the entire audience already knows that Sully will land the plane and everyone will survive; the sheer relief of the passengers once they realise that they’re not going to die today still makes for emotional viewing nonetheless.
Perhaps Eastwood set his own bar too high, but the rest of Sully never manages to live up to this. Even Hanks, who is uncharacteristically morose, doesn’t bring his usual charisma to the film’s weaker moments. His sullenness is understandable, given the character, but aside from the occasional nightmare, Eastwood never dares to take a closer look at Sully to examine the conflict that he’s feeling. His relationship with his wife could have been an opportunity to show Sully’s vulnerability and explore his inner torment, but Laura Linney (as Lorraine Sullenberger) is sadly relegated to a series of phone calls.
The Miracle on the Hudson was undoubtedly a story that was begging to be told on the big screen, but Sully raises the question as to whether it should have been. Eastwood’s film is a sincere, straightforward look at the heroic events of 15th January 2009, but rarely is it ever much more than that.