Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Genre: Drama/ Biopic
On January 15th 2009, the passenger jet piloted by Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Hanks) suffers dual engine loss after striking a flock of geese. However, unable to make it back to an airport, he is forced to land on the Hudson river. Miraculously, all 155 people on board survive and Sullenberger becomes a national hero, however he also faces an investigation that threatens to destroy his career and reputation.
If we were asked who would be the first living actor to come to our minds if we were asked who should play an all-round heroic character and consummate good guy, the obvious answer for most would be Tom Hanks. Hanks has of course produced a great career out of playing these roles, and he undoubtedly does it very well, but it is this obvious casting decision that basically sums up just how disappointingly middle of the road and forgettable Sully is, despite the unforgettable true story that it is based on.
Clint Eastwood’s film is indeed a strange beast; it is made with blatantly good intentions, but it just struggles to tell what is a potentially great cinematic story (at least in theory) particularly well. Despite only being 96 minutes long, Sully does actually struggle to fill this running time effectively, and it seems that this is due to a lack of clear narrative focus, as the story is depicted in an unfortunately ineffective and often uninvolving way.
This is a true story that every viewer will remember seeing on the news at the time, and so this should give the filmmakers a head start in terms of making a film that is emotionally engaging, and relevant, as a vast majority of us put our lives in the hands of aeroplane pilots all the time. Yet, despite some great performances and effective visuals, Sully just fails to take off, even though it does seem to be made with the best of intentions.
The key focus of the narrative seems to be its titular protagonist and how it affects him, but we also are given subplots involving passengers or crew. Yet while these feel like unsatisfying filler, despite being potentially powerful stories in their own right if given the focus. Likewise the part of the story that focusses on the relationship between Sully and his wife; this should have been powerful, but because of the way it is written into the script it feels not only unsatisfying, but also like unnecessary filler too.
The main focus of the narrative itself also feels too contrived. Now, I like most people, do not know all the facts, but the key focus of the narrative is the investigative team trying to prove that Sully could have made it back safely to two nearby airports. Apart from the visual depiction of the aeroplane landing on the Hudson river, the films big set piece is the investigation. Well, though they may well have actually been like this in real life, the investigator’s antagonist nature feels unnecessarily over-emphasised, and certain narrative developments involving them happen very suddenly and conveniently, leading to the whole film just feeling contrived and therefore uninvolving.
Certainly no fault can be aimed at the cast, as they all deliver excellent performances. Tom Hanks is of course essentially playing Tom Hanks with grey hair and a slight New York twang, but is perfectly effective as the stoic Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger. Meanwhile Aaron Eckhart is also excellent, as is Laura Linney. In fact, the entire cast are all very good in their individual roles, the main problem is simply the lack of focus of the narrative.
The final closing scene of the film reveals all in terms of what point the film is trying to make. As lovely as this particular point is, it pretty much sums up just how much of a waste Sully is; this is a true story that must have been such an experience that was both harrowing and euphoric for all involved, but all we get as a result is this ill-disciplined and ill-focused forgettable film.
Though Clint Eastwood’s film is made with undeniable passion and integrity, Sully: The Miracle on the Hudson has such a lack of clear focus that it may be a perfectly watchable film, but it never truly thrills or engages like it truly should.