UK Release Date: 2nd December 2016
Runtime: 96 minutes
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Todd Komarnicki
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, Ann Cusack, Holt McCallany
Synopsis: The story of the eponymous pilot, who landed a passenger aircraft on the Hudson River after both engines were struck by a flock of geese, and the subsequent investigation into his conduct.
What’s the shortest story you’ve ever been told? There are some public health pamphlets that are pretty enlightening, and short. If I were to write a novel about successful romances in my teen years it would be equally short, if a little less enlightening. Sully’s story is six minutes long.
The story covers the fateful events of January 15, 2009 where a pack of birds collided with the engines of a plane flown by Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, who is played ably, if unremarkably, by Tom Hanks. Sully then proceeded to land the plane on the Hudson River in New York. It was a huge news story that drew attention from all over the world as dramatic pictures spread online of the plane in the river, accompanied by the uplifting news that all of the 155 people on board had survived.
It’s a remarkable true story – a feat of tremendous personal endeavour, showcasing the value of decades of dedication and hard work. Yet, it’s six minutes long. The job of this movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, is to convince you that the other 90 minutes of its running time is worth your attention. In this respect, Sully is less a safe landing and more of a bumpy, uncomfortable ride that ends with an apologetic refund from the airline.
At its core, this movie lacks any sort of conflict that wasn’t manufactured in an attempt to make this feel like The Social Network for the middle-aged. It also lacks a protagonist who is interesting. Sully is a workmanlike professional, but his personal history, current circumstances, and response to his sudden fame are either very boring, or severely under-developed. His utterances throughout the movie that the response to his heroism doesn’t feel real are interesting, and there is probably room for a true story about the impact on an everyday citizen suddenly thrown into the limelight, but Sully isn’t it.
Outside of this, the movie is stuffed full of noticeable padding to help it to feature length. A few stories of the flight’s passengers are shoe-horned into the middle section of the movie, and have little impact on your emotional connection to the characters or story. All in all, the story of the flight itself is told three times, and then simulated a further four times, from start to finish.
Sully does a good job in the first act of convincing you that seeing an event to which you know the ending will be interesting, but unfortunately you can’t shake the feeling this movie has nothing else to tell you. It’s got six minutes’ worth of material in its baggage hold, and it uses and manipulates them to such extremes that they feel like a six minutes from which you are never going to be able to escape.
Pop or Poop?
The ‘miracle on the Hudson’ is one of the most remarkable human achievements of recent years, but Sully is a rather ordinary retelling of an absolutely extraordinary story. Tom Hanks is a capable and likeable lead performer hamstrung by a workmanlike script and direction that never pushes boundaries. This is six minutes of drama repeated ad nauseam and it doesn’t do justice to the story at all.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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