Sully combines the thrill of events you already know work out okay with the pulse-pounding excitement of multiple computer simulations of airplanes landing. Complete with director Clint Eastwood’s overt personal biases against government bureaucracy and a main character defined by a complete lack of extreme emotions, the film is without conflict or purpose. The dramatic climax features a man comfortably seated, speaking softly, whose words are met with polite murmurs. Sully is the cinematic equivalent of a mediocre nap.
The titular character, the stoic and unflappable Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, is played by Tom Hanks, who is running here on likeability autopilot. We know the events: Shortly after takeoff in January of 2009, flight 1549 lost both engines due to bird strikes and landed safely in the Hudson. Note that word “safely.” That means the entirety of Sully is basically the chilling tale of a travel delay… Not to take anything away from the significance of the real event, but there’s a reason we don’t see The Car Accident I Narrowly Avoided: The Movie.
The chronology of the film is spaghetti-ed in order to try and build some semblance of rising tension. Sully awakes from a fitful dream in which he made the wrong call, headed back to LaGuardia and crashed into buildings in New York City. If you want to know how much progress we’ve made since 9/11, we’ve gone from hypersensitivity about even mentioning it to “screw it, let’s CGI a plane fireballing into a skyscraper.” The bulk of the film is dedicated to the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the incident. Sully and his copilot, the impressively mustachioed Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), defend their choices to bean-counting pencil pushers made to look like dicks despite the fact they did exactly what they were supposed to do.
This is the type of movie where people say things like “You’re a hero Sully Sullenberger” and he responds “I was just doing my job.” This happens a lot. Maybe 5-10 times. He has a nightmare with Katie Couric in it, if you’re into that sort of thing. Um, let’s see… Sully’s wife (Laura Linney) cries on the phone often, sometimes about money trouble, which is weird because pilots make a healthy salary. Uh, Sully jogs a lot… Like, he stress jogs at night and in the morning. It’s not a run or anything, but it’s a little more urgent than a power walk. Oh, and there are four computer simulations of planes landing. And you get to not only watch the simulations but also watch people watching the simulations. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Sully is a movie that has no need to exist about an event that was significant but not worth reenacting. There’s no doubt the real Sully is a good dude who did a good thing. There’s also no doubt that good dudes doing good things don’t always make for good movies.
Grade = C-