Movies & TV / Reviews

Sully Review

September 9, 2016 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The 411 Rating
Community Grade
Your Grade
Sully Review  

Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Written By: Todd Komarnick; Based on Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow
Runtime: 96 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Tom Hanks – Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
Aaron Eckhart – Jeff Skiles
Laura Linney – Lorraine Sullenberger
Mike O’Malley – Charles Porter
Anna Gunn – Elizabeth Davis
Holt McCallany – Mike Cleary
Jamey Sheridan – Ben Edwards
Sam Huntington – Jeff Kolodjay
Autumn Reeser – Tess Soza
Jerry Ferrara – Michael Delaney
Katie Couric – Katie Couric

Director Clint Eastwood delves into the real-life 2009 plane crash of US Airways Flight 1549 that saw Capt. Chesley Sullenberger being forced to land a commercial flight with 155 people on board into the Hudson River. The event was called the “Miracle on the Hudson” by the media. Eastwood’s new film, Sully, is an attempt to present a riveting dramatization of the event, along with its immediate aftermath.

The film does well in at least bucking expectations. It begins with what appears to be the plane crash, but as things grow more and more horrendous, it turns out to be a fiery nightmare. Chesley Sullenberger, aka Sully, awakens in a fright. Some time has already passed since January 15, 2009. Sully is still sequestered in his hotel room in New York City as the National Transportation Safety Board is in the midst of its investigation of the crash. Led by Charles Porter (O’Malley), the NTSB panelists are depicted as witch hunters on a witch-hunt. Sully clearly erred by opting to land a plan with two damaged engines into the Hudson, when simulations indicate that Sully had enough time to attempt an emergency landing on two different runways. The self-doubt starts to encroach on Sully. Did he mess up? Sure, everyone made it out alive, but did Sully use poor judgment and instinct to attempt a water landing? That’s considering that Sully pulling off such a feat without resulting in any casualties is somewhat unprecedented. Outside of the NTSB, people are hailing Sully as a hero, and he just doesn’t understand it because he doesn’t feel like one. It’s here where Sully struggles to find its footing as a movie. There arguably isn’t much of a movie to be made here.

A major problematic element for Sully is that at 96 minutes, the movie runs incredibly short. Yet, even at 96 minutes, the plot feels excessively padded with the NTSB investigation plot. Oddly enough, even with all the padding the movie has received, the film really has no actual ending at all. It just comes to a weird, abrupt stop. It seems like this was not meant to be a feature-length movie, but one of those extended short educational films that used to be shown on IMAX theaters at museums.

It’s interesting how similar the movie looks and feels similar to another drama involving an airplane crash and a pilot who was able to heroically land an aircraft in 2012’s Flight, starring Denzel Washington. Except, unlike Washington’s fictional character in that story, Sully isn’t a degenerate drunk and borderline coke addict. The NTSB investigations come off as rather familiar to that film, save for the fact that the pilot here is a straight-laced, working Joe who doesn’t have a gigantic secret to hide. Despite the film’s basis as a real-life event, the drama with the NTSB officials, who are made out to be two-dimensional villains who want to set up Sully as their scapegoat, comes off as forced. The hearing scenes are played out like a courtroom drama, and Sully is like the underdog lawyer who needs to overcome the odds to line up a slam-dunk legal case or his professional life could be over. The livelihood of his family could be in jeopardy. These are the moments of Sully that play as less than genuine. Setting up the NTSB officials as the villains out to topple and discredit Sully seems misguided.

For Tom Hanks, he’s good in the role of Sully. Aaron Eckhart provides good support in the role of his co-pilot, Skiles. However, while Hanks is good in the role, he never really disappears into it. It’s Tom Hanks playing a “Tom Hanks, Everyman” role. He never truly becomes Sullenberger.

Laura Linney is absolutely wasted in the film in a rather thankless role as Lorraine, the worried and concerned wife of Sully. The relationship between Lorraine and Sully is poorly established. The emotions that are portrayed come off as two-dimensional. Very little time is actually spent between Lorraine and Sully, so Linney’s performance in the role never seems to stick. What the film really needed was an actual scene between the two that the film clearly sets up and the audience expects, but it never delivers. It’s a case where putting in a predictable type of scene that the audience anticipates is not always a bad thing.

The middle section, when the film approaches the plane crash sequence and its immediate aftermath, are among the stronger moments. It’s in these moments where the film, showing the crew, the pilots and the New York first responders springing into action and demonstrating grace under pressure, Sully shines. The plane sequences and almost the entire movie were shot using the 2D Alexa IMAX cameras, and this marks the first feature-length movie that was almost completely shot on IMAX.

The screening was at AMC CityWalk at Universal Studios on the IMAX screen. This IMAX theater features a 4K dual-laser projector system, along with an eight-story IMAX screen, so this venue is the current gold standard for IMAX presentation. It was a crisp, high-resolution image, and the plane sequences looked stunning in this format. That said, it’s not an improvement over watching a full-frame 70mm IMAX presentation. It’s nice to get an expanded image, but if I watch a presentation on IMAX shot with IMAX cameras, I’d prefer the full-frame experience. Granted, the IMAX presentation was in 2D instead of 3D, which is a definite bonus.

Sully is far from a bad movie; it’s just a rather misguided one. It’s a fine presentation of people showing bravery and courage, but they were just doing their jobs and doing what they were trained to do. Sometimes, when people do what they are supposed to be doing, it is more of an act of heroism than one might think.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Sully is in no way a terrible film. It's perfectly watchable for its short length. Still, as a movie, it comes off as incredibly padded with its middle section; and in some sections, it's missing important scenes where they would count. The film has its moments, and it looked highly impressive in the IMAX DLP format. There's definitely a lot of potential for the future with that in mind.