For a near-disaster movie about a pilot who famously kept his commercial jetliner (with “155 souls on board”) above water, Clint Eastwood’s fact-based procedural feels like it was filmed underwater. This film’s dirge-like tempo and similarly muted emotional range of every single character puts a deadening filter between the story and this film’s audience.
It’s more like watching a funeral, than witnessing one of the most spectacular lifesaving events in recent memory. Perhaps most troubling is Eastwood’s (possibly subconscious) inclination toward celebrating white people for the sake of their whiteness. If historic Caucasian pap is your thing, then this movie is for you. You can count the number of people with brown skin in this film on one hand. More to that point, the film’s dramatic arc crescendos on Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) agreeing that they “did their job.” If you’re looking for a low thematic bar to hurdle, we’ve go a ringer here.
Tom Hanks plays Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, the stoic pilot who crash-landed his US Airways plane on Manhattan's Hudson River after a bird strike took out both engines. Hanks’s performance might be true the human model he represents but we don’t get much, if any insight, into what makes Sully tick. He’s an underpaid career pilot whose vast experience, flying many thousands of hours, allowed him to make critical decisions in split seconds that saved the lives of everyone aboard his plane. We already knew that. This film doesn’t explain much that most of our collective American conscious doesn’t already know, other than how flight simulators work.
“Sully” comes across as an exhausted victory lap for Clint Eastwood. Give the guy his due. That still doesn’t mean that he hasn’t made a disappointing movie.
Rated PG-13. 96 mins. (C-) (One Star — out of five / no halves)
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