Review: ‘Sully’ Is Oscar Bait That Fails To Deliver
Director: Clint Eastwood
Principal Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Valerie Mahaffey, Laura Linney, and Mike O’Malley
Screenwriter: Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley Sullenberger (based on the book “Highest Duty” by) (as Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger), and Jeffrey Zaslow (based on the book “Highest Duty” by)
Summary: 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.
This is a weird time of year at the movies. The summer blockbuster time is over but it’s too early in the fall for any of the award season movies to come out either. It’s not October yet so the horror movies haven’t started to hit just yet and it’s far too early for Christmas. This usually means that we get some meandering summer movies that weren’t good enough for the summer and the occasional award season movie that is confident enough in itself to release a little early despite Oscar voters tending to forget anything that comes out before October. Sully is a movie that falls into that category. It’s a movie based on a real event that has happened in the last decade, and being directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks it couldn’t scream ‘award season movie’ louder if it tried.
Sully might be an interesting story but as a movie it would be better suited to a documentary that told the facts instead of forcing an emotional reaction.
As an audience member I tend to ease away from movies that are very obviously trying to provoke an emotional reaction out of me. I know that I’m supposed to find something upsetting or uplifting but I feel it is much better if I’m left to get there organically. This is why I tend not to enjoy Nicholas Sparks movies because they are telling me when I’m supposed to have an emotional reaction. Sully is a ‘based on true events’ version of a Nicholas Sparks movie. There were so many larger than life moments and dramatic stares that the movie was trying to scream at me that I was supposed to find all of this engaging. I could have gotten there but that is a process that should just happen instead of telling the audience when it’s supposed to happen. I know this is an amazing story but instead of trying to provoke emotion from me you should just focus on that story.
That’s the thing that I found frustrating about Sully and about many different ‘based on true events’ movies; I would have much rather watched a documentary about it. With a documentary there wouldn’t be a chance to truly recreate the crash in detail or have great actors like Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart playing our leads, but the only time I truly felt engaged during Sully was during the credits. There were brief snippets of the real people that survived the crash which were the only genuine moments throughout the entire production. I understand why they decided to go this route but it would have avoided the tired cliches that come with this sort of storytelling, such as casting the people investigating the crash as ‘villains’ when the entire point of the movie was that this was just two guys doing their jobs.
That’s not to say all of it isn’t put together extremely well. As I said you don’t get to hire great actors like Hanks to play your leads if you’re making a documentary and Hanks absolutely kills it in the moments where it counts. He’s probably going to get a nomination out of this and it is very deserved. Hanks is one of the best at capturing the essence of an “every man” thrown into an extraordinary situation. Eckhart, in contrast, does a wonderful job of being the first officer to Hank’s Sully who 100% believes that they both made the right choices when it came to the crash. Eastwood’s direction makes the various recreations of the flight very tense which is a hard thing to pull off since we know that everyone on the crash survives.
Sully is a far from a bad movie; it has a great if very problematic (which is a completely different topic) director and two great actors behind it. However, I believe that a movie should be able to elicit emotional responses organically and Sully relied on a bit too much telling me where, when and what I should be feeling. This is an airline crash story in New York City in 2009 that ended without a single death; I know this is an amazing and needed story. I just wish the movie was more confident in itself to not try and manipulate me into into feeling that.