I was surprised to leave Tom Hanks’ new film ‘Sully’ pondering that age-old debate: which is more trustworthy – human judgment or mechanical precision?
No one disagrees that the 2009 ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, in which US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger crash-landed an Airbus A320-214 on the Hudson River, was a spectacular and courageous feat – but at the time, there was some doubt about whether it sprung from a brave decision, or a potentially lethal error.
Clint Eastwood directs, giving us a stirring and thoughtful portrait as the captain undergoes the post-crash investigation and media circus, and you cannot help but marvel that the event itself really took place – never has the number ‘155’ filled me with such relief.
Unfortunately, as a whole, the film is slightly clunkily put together, with heavy-handed statements leading you through Sully’s turmoil by the nose. Supporting characters have little more to do than act alternately anxious and awe-struck, making some of the star casting, including Laura Linney, feel rather unnecessary.
There is also a sense of padding around the actual story, particularly evident when Eastwood contrives a way for the audience to experience the full crash twice in real-time, and tension is rather transparently drummed up as characters regularly ask ‘what if’ questions to persuade viewers that the investigation’s outcome is anything but certain.
Despite these flaws, it is a rewarding experience with strong central performances: Tom Hanks is more or less Tom Hanks – but enjoyably so! – in the lead role, and Aaron Eckhart gives a true co-pilot’s performance as Jeff Skiles, adding depth and heft to proceedings without nabbing the limelight. There is also plenty of heartwarming sentiment and overt ‘togetherness’, something audiences – Americans especially, perhaps – may well be grateful for.
Overall, Sully is a slightly flawed, drawn-out retelling of a truly remarkable story.