‘Sully’ Review: A Puff Piece That Hits Turbulence As Soon As It Takes Off

Clint Eastwood Drags This 208 Second Ordeal Into 96 Minutes Of ‘Sully’

If you are aware of pop culture & real-life events, I’m sure you know the story of airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. January 15th , 2009, is remembered as the day pilot Sully landed his flight in the Hudson River. Not only did this make him a national hero but it also became something for the media to eat up.

While Sully handled the hero’s story well, Eastwood’s film never tackled anything else. We had minor moments of PTSD, but there were deeper stories here. The fact that it took until the very end of the film to hear Sully (Tom Hanks) say that this was a team effort felt problematic. It bothered co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) as well. Seeing the media ignore the work that Skiles did in the cockpit got to him, and that look at the sociological examination of fame and how the media covers events would have fit perfectly. Even diving into the marriage of Sullenberger and his wife Lorrie (Laura Linney) would have added another layer. But that’s the problem with “based on a true story” movies; you can’t dive into entertaining sub-plots like that without dampening the film’s truth.

Also, the way this story tried to make the NTSB look villainous didn’t sit well with me. A company trying to do their job by the books ended up being painted as the bad guy. I understand that questioning the heroism of Sully feels odd but this was as unexpected for the NTSB as it was for the pilots. Films and stories need an antagonist but this missed out on showing the true enemy: geese.

“This Is The Captain, Brace For Impact”
-Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger

Moving away from the film’s script, the filmmaking side fares no better. The visual effects came off as laughable at times, the editing was inconsistent, and the score was distracting. Every time the Sully theme song played, it took me right out. The only notable behind-the-camera work came from Clint Eastwood. He focused all his energy on turning Tom Hanks into Sullenberger. His directing is usually outstanding, with great American character pieces, but this is almost another example. That focus ended up being the film’s downfall. All of the other characters felt one-dimensional compared to Sully.

Final Thoughts:

I walked in knowing what to expect from this movie but ultimately, I was let-down even more. With the screenplay being based off the book written by Sully, you can only imagine how the film tells the story. But in order to tell something true to life, director Clint Eastwood sacrificed any masterful film storytelling. It felt like he went into auto-pilot with this piece. At least, him and Tom Hanks created a realistic performance of a man who is still actively in the media. Hanks hasn’t played a character like this in quite some time so it’s a pleasure to see him dive into a role.

I call it a puff-piece cause it was very obviously focused on furthering Sully as a hero and coming off hollow in doing so. The entertainment would have added to the film and even helped humanize the character of Sullenberger. Seemingly coming from Sully himself, I can’t help to feel like this was re-told to help further his 15 minutes of fame. There’s two frames of mindset about this event for me. First one, I recognize the awesome showing of pilot Chelsey Sullenberger and the skill it took to pull off the maneuver he did. My second mindset is seeing how he’s used his celebrity and newfound attention. I love a good media whore but capitalizing on near-death situation to me feels odd.

In all honesty, the film is average but I think it could have excelled if it wasn’t tied to being a truthful adaption. Some artistic freedom with the story & characters like the under-used air traffic control operator or co-pilot Jeff Skiles could have rounded-out the entire movie.

I was expecting Oscar gold from ‘Sully’ and all I got was Daytime Emmy bronze.

EJ Moreno
EJ Morenohttp://Vimeo.com/EJMoreno
Who is EJ Moreno? Is he a trained physician? No. Is he a former Miss Universe contestant? Possibly. With a bachelors degree in film and a love of pop culture, he brings an alternative view to the world of pop culture journalism. Follow him on Twitter @EJKhryst and check out his film work at Vimeo.com/ejmoreno