With a decent screenwriter, this could have been a great film.
Movie Review #1,078
Distributed by Warner Bros. Biography, Drama. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language. Released September 9, 2016. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Tim Moore, and Allyn Stewart. Screenplay by Todd Komarnicki. Based on the book “Highest Duty” by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberg and Jeffrey Zaslow. Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney, Molly Hagan, Cooper Thornton, and Patch Darragh. With a cameo from Katie Couric.
Right off the bat, the best thing “Sully” offers us is Tom Hanks. The man never fails to please his audience. He channels his character, real-life Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, as a softspoken, humble individual. In 2009, Sully successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, after an attack from migrating geese that damaged both propellors on the plane. The public praised him as a hero thereafter, and dubbed the event the “Miracle on the Hudson.” However, Sully immediately came under fire from US Airways, who tried to prove that he could have landed the plane safely at LaGuardia Airport, from which it had departed shortly before the accident. Sully is a hero in the public’s eye, but as he sees it, he was just an ordinary man doing his job. It’s a beautiful irony that this makes the movie feel all the more triumphant.
Unfortunately, that’s just one aspect of “Sully”. From Clint Eastwood, the man who directed “Gran Torino” around the time that this film is set and “American Sniper” just a year and a half ago, the film is rather disappointing. However, it’s by no fault of Eastwood’s that “Sully” is so imperfect. It’s the screenwriter, the hardly-established Todd Komarnicki, who is responsible. Much of the dialogue in the film is weak. It often feels as if the background information we need is forced into the characters’ dialogue at inconvenient times. The way it comes from their mouths, they might as well be acknowledging they’re in a movie, because much of the dialogue is that self-conscious. What’s more, some of the action that takes place in air traffic control feels overdramatized. In real life, these people are trained to remain calm and focus on doing their job well, but what we see in “Sully” is people behind the scenes crying and panicking. The film also has a habit of jumping from place to place within the story as it sees fit. Komarnicki enjoys throwing us into flashbacks at times where a flashback is not only unexpected but also illogically placed, and sometimes even unnecessary. At one point, we’re thrown into a random, five-minute sequence nostalgically showing the hero learning to fly a plane at a young age. If you happen to think that any excuse for warm-and-fuzziness in a movie is a good excuse, then this scene is rather important to the overall film. Otherwise, you might find it an opportune time for a bathroom break.
The saddest thing about “Sully” is that it might have been great if it weren’t for the script. You know the director has to be doing something right when you see passengers being evacuated in the water, and you yourself start shivering. If the film’s dialogue and its action had been as powerful as those sensory details that we not only see but feel as we watch the film, or as robust as Tom Hanks’s lead, this might have turned out a shoo-in during the forthcoming Oscar season. My suggestion to Eastwood: please don’t hire Komarnicki back for your next film.