It should be considered a miracle that a 24-minute incident was able to be transformed into a 96-minute film.
How is it achieved, though? Well, by being outrageously redundant.
Sully is the story of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” the time when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed a plane with two broken engines on the Hudson River. Most everyone knows who he is, and that brings with it automatic empathy. When you account for the fact that the pilot is played by Tom Hanks, you really can’t mess it up too badly.
For me, though, director Clint Eastwood did the best he could to sabotage it. I will not deny that the man is a great director, particularly after American Sniper, but there just doesn’t seem to be a real grip on the story here. It goes back and forth in time almost randomly, which results in the actual plane voyage being shown several times to various degrees of completion, and the only characters that get any real dimension are Sully and his First Officer (Aaron Eckhart, The Dark Knight).
Right when you think the story is going in one direction, it takes an extended diversion somewhere else, relying on manufactured emotion to get to the other side. You see little snippets with passengers or spouses, and that’s the filmmakers’ way of churning empathy. (Faking it well is still faking it.)
The saddest thing, perhaps, is that we need this film. There is no doubt in my mind that the studios chose to release this optimistic New York City plane movie on the anniversary weekend of September 11. It’s just that the film isn’t good enough for that. Yes, bureaucracy is a pain, but sometimes it’s not what you tell, it’s how you tell it.
This film is 24 minutes of content, 5 minutes of credits, and around 67 minutes of filler. Sully is disjointed and redundant, like the filmmakers could have gone back to the airport, but just decided to wing it. Somehow, though, it works.
Sully is in theaters now.