Sully Review — Grounded by a Leaden Script

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sully reviewSully is one of those films you hate to criticize because of its pedigree: Clint Eastwood directing Tom Hanks in a film about American hero Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who was somehow able to make an emergency landing in an Airbus A320 on the Hudson River, and not lose a single passenger.

And while I will say the film has its moments, there were only about 20 of them in a movie that is 96 minutes long. I found most of the rest to be, well, a bit boring.

It’s never easy to create suspense or surprises in a film about an incident that everyone knows how it ends. So in an attempt to make Sully more than just your average linear docudrama, screenwriter Todd Komarnicki decided to begin a day or two after Sully landed the Airbus on the Hudson, and tell the harrowing tale via flashbacks. The overarching plot involves Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) testifying before the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

In the film, the members of the NTSB panel (was that the uber talented Anna Gunn totally underutilized? Why yes, it was) appear to be McCarthy-esque bullies attempting to defame our hero and prove he used faulty judgement. I understand the real members of the NTSB panel are a bit piqued at their portrayal, and I can’t blame them. This is what happens when you feel you have to create drama and bad guys where there really are none. What, the actual story of the landing and rescue didn’t provide enough excitement?

The scenes involving the incident itself are riveting, emotional, and superb. But when that’s not happening on screen, Hanks spends far too much time wandering around the streets of New York alternately being humble, frustrated and befuddled–likely experiencing PTSD, although that’s never mentioned. Laura Linney plays Sully’s wife, but she gets no screen time with him. They mostly exchange banalities on the phone, and that grows tiresome after awhile.

The film redeems itself when the credits roll and the real Sullenbergers are reunited with most of the crew and passengers on U.S. Airways Flight 1549. I just wish the rest of the film could have been as compelling. I think these people, especially the Sullenbergers, deserve more.

96 minutes

Rated PG-13

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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