Prolific 86-year-old filmmaker Clint Eastwood continues his streak of taking rich, real-life material and executing with a talented but problematic hand in Sully. Tom Hanks stars as hero pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger responsible for averting the peril of US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, dubbed the "Miracle on the Hudson".
Eastwood is obviously an experienced storyteller but the way he stretches the thin story/premise and manufactures uninteresting conflict is tiresome. When the narrative focuses solely on the real-time events evoking 9/11 imagery, a feeling of raw emotional terror, and touching relief, the film is at its best. Hanks' work subtly revealing the man's personal heroism is effective and thoughtful.
Aaron Eckhart (and his glorious moustache) does fine supporting work as Sully's first officer aiding in Sullenberger's sense of confidence. Laura Linney is good but has a thankless role as Sully's wife only ever seen talking to him over the phone. A string of characters actors and even Katie Couric show up as passengers, transit officials, and passers by to support Hanks in the titular role.
It's puzzling to think why anyone would be surprised by the NTSB investigating the incident so seriously as Eastwood focuses far too much time on the uninteresting dissection of Sullenberger's competency which is never in doubt. Officials making sure such a drastic water landing was necessary in an unprecedented manner seems logical just as the eventual confirmation of the situation. There's no natural conflict as Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki spend so much effort on the non-existent "untold real story" based on Sullenberger's autobiography, Highest Duty.
Sully is an effectively competent but sparse 96-minute film about 208 (very dramatic) seconds. It tries too hard to create tension with artificial villains when the story is relatively short and straightforward. The second half really tells the story efficiently using dramatic recreation and an in the moment narrative to grab the viewer's attention. It's also difficult to deny Hanks' quietly harrowing performance and Eastwood's assured direction of real-life events.
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