I am the wrong person to review Sully, I realise. More than any other genre, the Based On True Events Drama is not my cup of tea. I felt drowsy seeing the trailer for this film; it’s a miracle I made it through the whole thing. Still it was the best of all available options (you can check Rotten Tomatoes if you don’t believe me) and it was excellent. I think. I’m pretty sure it was excellent, anyway – the rest of the audience really enjoyed it.
The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.
I only vaguely remember this story when it broke in 2009 – there was a lot going on at that point (I checked): Bush’s post-911 wiretapping had been deemed illegal, Obama was sworn into office and Octomom gave birth to a litter of eight. There had been some heroic landing of an airplane, everyone survived and the pilot was under investigation because someone thought maybe he could have done his job better. That’s all I know, at least until this movie. And I’m glad Sully was made, it’s a story worth hearing more of.
The strength of this film was in its acting and characters (when both are this good it’s hard to tweeze them apart). Tom Hanks was magnificent as Sullenberger, we could so easily see the trauma and doubt haunting a man who had been through something insanely difficult and then, instead of being left to heal, had to relive it and justify his actions again and again. Sullenberger himself was unflappable, he stood up for himself with quiet calm and dignity. I also really liked Aaron Eckhart who played Sullenberger’s co-pilot. Mike O’Malley, who was the spokesperson for those investigating the crash (making him the ‘villain’) of the story, was half menacing half bureaucratic and completely effective. I was also happy to see Anna Glenn (Mrs. Walter White) and Sam Huntington (Being Human’s Josh).
This can’t have been an easy film to make. There wasn’t much to the story, frankly, certainly not enough to easily fill 96 minutes of movie. As they point out, it was the result of about 288 seconds of actual event as the plane landed in the Hudson River; geese, landing, rescue and then inquiry. But Sully was clever, it focused on the human toll on the pilot and the main question: was he actually at fault? Could he have done better? We are left in doubt until the very end and then it is answered in a satisfying way.
I’m actually torn on some points. Sully did show the plane go down and land, the same events, no less than three times over the course of the film. Though that did really strengthen the sense that Sully was trapped reliving those 288 seconds and it would be some time before he was free of it. Also the film was really understated and so the climax didn’t seem that climactic. There was no end boss after all. But guess I would be lying if I didn’t say my heart wasn’t in my throat at that scene, hoping for a favorable outcome. It was. And when I consider the alternative, a more dramatic eventful plot with more polarized dramatic characters, I think that would have made this film too melodramatic and less believable (and probably entirely unwatchable). It was the believability of Sully that made it shine, crazy but true events happening to real but extraordinary people making a little piece of history.
So is Sully worth seeing? Yes, if you’re into that kind of thing. I didn’t like it as much as Eye in the Sky, the other Based On True Events drama I’ve seen. But it was a solid film and well made. I look forward to seeing something a little more…. escapist… next week, but I’m glad I went to this one.