In 2009 pilot Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) flies into a flock of geese which takes the plane’s engines out. However, he still manages to land the stricken flight 1549 safely in the waters of the Hudson River, with all 155 passengers and crew unharmed and accounted for. Although the passengers and media naturally brand Sully a hero, he and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are forced to endure an investigation into their actions that could see Sully’s career in serious jeopardy. Basically, the National Transportation Safety Board are pissed that the plane is a write-off, rather than being pleased that everyone escaped unharmed. Still, did the veteran pilot of 40+ years make an error in judgement? Laura Linney plays Sully’s wife, Sam Huntington one of the passengers, and Michael Rapaport turns up as a bartender.
An extremely minor but nonetheless very watchable real-life recount from director Clint Eastwood (“Play Misty For Me”, “White Hunter Black Heart”, “Mystic River”, “Jersey Boys”), this 2016 flick is perhaps not as enjoyable as a documentary on the same subject might’ve been. Scripted by Todd Komarnicki (“Perfect Stranger” with Halle Berry and Bruce Willis), it’s solid but the only thing separating it from being a TV movie is that it stars Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, and Laura Linney, instead of Bruce Boxleitner, Jack Wagner, and Melissa Gilbert.
What the film does best is to convey very clearly Clint’s obvious admiration towards Sully. He clearly views Sully as a hero, as do I. The guy managed to land the plane without any casualties, and yet the authorities still try to rake Sully over the coals. That shit’s just not right, and this is pure Eastwood. I get it, there may have been a better decision to be made, but I’m not sure it matters and even if it does I’m certainly not convinced it should’ve resulted in Sully being subjected to such scrutiny. It seems like splitting hairs and Eastwood clearly has no time for that nit-picking bullshit, either. That’s all pretty well-done, and it gets a definite boost from the spot-on casting of Tom Hanks in the lead. No he doesn’t look or sound much like the real Sully, but he embodies the right reliable, stoic, trustworthy qualities needed for the part. If it weren’t for Hanks, it might’ve been too easy to doubt that Sully has the right instincts. It’s very sincere, straightforward character work by Hanks, and Aaron Eckhart is excellent too as Sully’s loyal and frankly pissed off co-pilot who has less patience towards the investigators’ questioning. Poor Laura Linney, however suffers badly from the rather simplistic scripting, hers is a clichéd concerned wife/mother role that the actress isn’t able to do a damn thing with.
Thematically I get why Clint admires Sully (as do I), but anyone could’ve made this very safe, unsurprising film. It’s solid enough stuff with fine performances by Hanks and Eckhart, but it feels too much like material suited to midday television, and not someone of Eastwood’s stature. Very short, too (Eastwood’s shortest directorial effort to date).