19/09/2016 | Jake Richardson
Clint Eastwood, hot off the success of 2014's American Sniper, finds middling success with an examination of the moments leading up to, and following, US Airways Flight 1549's crash landing in the Hudson River in 2009.
Eastwood tackles the action packed landing with his usual tact; combining the thrilling heroics of the day with deep introspection on the part of our main character, and revealing the inner turmoil of the man behind the legend. The slow-burn pace of the film, so reminiscent of his work in Unforgiven (1992), Gran Torino (2008) and American Sniper (2014) further exemplifies his dexterity when handling the humanity belying action. Certainly, he is much more suited to this sort of subject matter than musicals.
The film tackles the famous 2009 crash in New York, and Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger's (Tom Hanks) experience after the fact. Tom Hanks, looking considerably slimmed-down for the role, handles the drama with aplomb - giving real depth and emotion to a man traumatised by his decisions, and his brush with death.
"Haven't I seen this before?"
The acting all-round is solid, with Aaron Eckhart memorable as Sully's co-pilot Jeff Skiles and Laura Linney as his worried wife. They all pale in comparison to Hanks' performance though; every line of the man's face exudes the mental anguish Sully feels as he second-guesses his fateful decisions on that day.
As he wades his way through knee-deep water hunting down any remaining passengers during the evacuation, his struggle is not just mental but physical; Eastwood and Hanks working together to show Sully desperately struggling to hold onto his credibility as a safety expert, as a pilot and as a man. His solitary running acts as an allegory for his feeling of isolation, as he finds himself at the low point of his career in a city without his family and with an accusatory transport authority threatening to ruin his life.
Indeed, it is with this National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) that the movie falters. Eastwood struggles to fit this movie with the stereotypical three act structure he so clearly desires; the lack of conventional cinematic roles in the true life story proving difficult for screenwriter Todd Komarnicki's script. There is no traditional 'bad-guy' here (that is, unless you count the flock of birds that downs the plane). Sully is a fit, focused, safety-oriented pilot who in real life is an undoubted hero. Eastwood and Komarnicki thus try and force some sense of antagonist on the NTSB, and they come across as an utterly despicable group - a claim the real NTSB has vehemently denied.
The pace is slow. Sometimes excruciatingly so. The fateful crash is actually shown twice in full, and you will wonder as you watch it a second time, "haven't I seen this before?". One particular sequence will have you questioning whether you are sitting in a cinema or sitting on the tarmac, having the safety rules explained to you in what feels like real time. Perhaps these are all issues with the event itself - as Sully himself says, it was only 208 seconds, and such a quick crisis struggles to justify its 96 minute run time.
Eastwood struggles to make the plane crash engrossing for the entire runtime, but Sully is worth a look on the strength of Hanks' performance alone.