Sully doesn’t feel so much as a movie as a somewhat-notable Broadway play that was then adapted to the screen with minimal set and location changes to cut back on costs. It effectively accomplishes what it strives to do, detail the harrowing moments of the “Miracle on the Hudson” and Sully’s PTSD in the following days. But it never really reaches for greatness, settling on the belief that since the miracle itself was great, that should suffice for the movie.
Tom Hanks plays the titular airline captain Sully, fraught with an anxious tension and the crippling fear that he isn’t quite a hero but may be discovered as a fraud. Of course, Sully is a hero, but this internal skepticism is where the film pulls most of its dramatic tension, following Sully as he constantly wonders if he did the right thing and if there was anything more that he could have done.
Questioning Sully’s motives and actions after the crash are the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB. The members of the board serves as the chief antagonists throughout the film. They are foolhardy villains and attack Sully with a vicious grudge as if he were the person singlehandedly responsible for any delayed flights or lost luggage they’ve had on any previous flights throughout their lives. Sure, every great story, even those based on real-life events, need a villain. But director Clint Eastwood is grasping at straws here making the NTSB members his main bad guys, just because nobody else would do.
The most thrilling parts of the movie are, not surprisingly, the crash and rescue, and watching Air Traffic Controllers react quickly to this sudden change of events. Aaron Eckhart, who plays Sully’s co-pilot, and Laura Linney, who plays Sully’s wife, do their best with the material that their given. But we never really learn anything about them, except that they operate as characters in Sully’s life.
The most surprising thing about this movie is that it clocks in just over 90 minutes, which is pretty short for a drama, let alone a “high quality” drama. If that time were extended to 120 minutes, this movie could have been a lot greater. We could have seen more of what makes Sully tick, more of the motivations of his wife and co-pilot, and really more of how this crash impacted New Yorkers. But for now, we’ll just have to stick with what Eastwood has served up, a movie that reveals no more than what we already knew: that Sully is a hero.