Given friends’ rave reviews about “Sully,” I was surprised to have left the theater just a bit disappointed. It was good, and I’d recommend it, but it likely won’t be in my DVD/BluRay collection unless and until it’s in the cut-out bin.
To be fair, these “based on a true story” flicks can be challenging to execute well. For one thing, you often have living people in which the story is based and who must be honorably and honestly portrayed. You also have story constraints: the film must purport to the facts as generally known by the public and yet fulfill audience expectations with respect to suspense.
The story recounts the harrowing experience of Captain Chesley Sullenberger, known as “Sully,” a skillful and level-headed pilot who landed U.S. Airways Flight 1549 shortly after takeoff when a flock of Canada geese mucked up the engines of the aircraft, requiring an emergency landing on the Hudson River. All 155 aboard survived.
Tom Hanks was perfectly cast as Sully. Hanks, whose body of work includes favorites such as Castaway, Saving Private Ryan, Apollo 13, and Captain Phillips, plays the role here of a reluctant hero and humble professional masterfully.
Beyond his expertise as a pilot, though, the character of Sully isn’t very well developed or even particularly interesting. This is unfortunate. Fictionalizing parts of true stories is Hollywood’s milieu and a screenwriter’s prerogative, but was in short supply here. The film portrays Sully, accurately, I think, as a family man, yet little is made of the characters in these roles. We see Sully repeatedly on the phone with his wife saying he couldn’t talk now or her saying, “I love you.” I could almost see my own eyes roll.
I would have liked to have seen a bit more fleshing out of an ancillary character or two instead — perhaps passengers, or even the co-pilot or air traffic controller. This would’ve added some additional dimension to a story whose ending we already know, not to mention, made the roles more attractive to the actors.
The event itself is ideally suited to the film medium due to its compressed time frame of only, I think, 208 minutes with 24 minutes for almost seamless and unsuspenseful rescue operations. Instead of taking advantage of the timespan, though, the script revisits the tragedy of 9/11. This may be helpful contextually to viewers of this film in the future, but tends to dwarf the horror that passengers aboard Sully’s plane must have felt that frigid January day.
The movie then fast-forwards to the inevitable investigation into the event by the National Transportation Safety Board. Again, there were lost opportunities to amp up the tension in the script. It’s revealed way too early that the investigators were to find Sully should’ve and could’ve turned around and returned to the airport or try to land at nearby Teeterboro in New Jersey instead of risking the water landing.
No suspense is even attempted when Sully defends his actions by showing that human reaction time wasn’t accurately reflected in the reenactment algorithm the investigators used. I would’ve liked to have seen a sudden revelation through some unorthodox and more interesting means where Sully realizes this. This would’ve been easy to fictionalize and heightened the tension immeasurably.
So, too, would have been more second-guessing by Sully. As confident of his action as he should have been, questioning himself more harshly than he did would have made the character more sympathetic. Since this is really the only conflict in the story beyond the slow-to-understand aviation bureaucracy, I was surprised so little was made of it.
Strangely, I was left with the lingering question of why it is we don’t have fully-computerized piloting of commercial aircraft given how foolproof it would be. Of course, that was the antithesis of what one was supposed to take from the story.
The filming in this feature was pleasurable and fitting. I note the flashback to Sully as a young pilot was done nicely even though the scenes did little to advance the story beyond showing he was an experienced pilot adept at handling a joystick under adverse conditions. The river landing was handled well enough for an audience to almost sense it without the jarring and unnecessary camera movements which are so popular in filmmaking today but which tend to detract from the experience.
I don’t rate with stars. Instead, I use the simple method of saying whether or not a flick was worth a Hamilton. This was worth a Hamilton.
|Directed by||Clint Eastwood|
|Written by||Todd Komarnicki|
|Edited by||Blu Murray|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$176.5 million|
By Source, <a href=”//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sully_xxlg.jpeg” title=”Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Sully (film)”>Fair use</a>, <a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50957177″>Link</a>