Review: ‘Sully’ Would Have Worked Better As A Documentary

Title: Sully
Director: Clint Eastwood
Summary: The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

There are typically two lulls in the movie season where not much comes out. The first is the very beginning of the year; the idea is that everyone is broke from the holidays and the first thing to go out the window are expensive forms of entertainment like movies. The second is the very end of the summer and into the very early fall; this is because the summer blockbuster season is over now that the kids are back in school but it’s too early for the award season because Oscar voters won’t remember anything that came out more than two months ago. Sully is proving to be a slightly different animal in that it has come out fairly early for the award season, which means the filmmakers are either very confident it will be remembered fondly or they are hoping that it won’t.

Sully is a movie that tries to force the audience to feel emotional about its scenes instead of letting them get there organically.


The miracle on the Hudson that happened back in 2009 was a fascinating incident. A plane loses both engines and has to make an emergency water landing where everyone on the plane survived. It is the sort of thing that is made for movies because these sort of situations rarely happen in the real world which makes it perfect for a movie. The events are fascinating which is probably why I would have preferred a documentary. There is a moment, during the credits, where the real Sully is making a speech to the survivors and it was the moment where the movie really came alive for me. The real Sully has enough charisma to carry a documentary about these events.

However, a documentary would mean that they likely wouldn’t have the budget to reenact the crash with top quality special effects. It would have prevented Sully for falling into the common tropes of the ‘based on a true story’ movie. The real world is rarely as narratively cohesive as the movies are. The various people that are looking into the crash are painted as the ‘bad guys’ which clashes with the message of the movie. Sully repeatedly says that he is not a hero and was just doing his job but the people investigating the crash are also just doing their jobs.

It makes for a movie with two great lead performances, Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart, but an odd tone. There were moments where the movie felt like it was trying to tell me how I was supposed to be feeling as an audience member. ‘This moment is sad so you should feel sad’ is what the movie was, at times, yelling at me to feel. This is a good story told by two very good actors; I didn’t need the movie telling me how I should be feeling. I could have gotten there organically and, instead, the movie telling me how I should be feeling made me feel the opposite.

Sully is a movie that most people are going to love but I cannot say that I enjoyed it entirely. The lead performances are very good and the recreations of the crash are tense, despite knowing that everyone survives. However, by the end, I wanted to know more without the fluff that comes from movies seeking awards. Hanks will probably score a nomination for Sully but I fully expect to have entirely forgotten it by the time end of the year voting rolls around.

Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth
Kaitlyn Booth is a writer, film critic, comic lover, and soccer fan based in Salt Lake City. She has covered such events as the Sundance Film Festival, San Diego Comic Con, and New York Comic Con and been a special guest and panelist at Salt Lake Comic Con and FanX. She has a deep fondness for female superheroes and independent film.