Monday, September 12, 2016

Movie Review: Sully

In Sully Tom Hanks plays Captain Sully Sullenberger who piloted the plane in the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson" controlled water landing (it wasn't a crash) saving all 155 lives on board.

The actual flight lasted just 208 seconds and the rescue took 24 minutes and yet the film is an hour and half. When they recreate the flight and landing the movie is good. The rescue as well. Factual or not, seeing everyone, including ferry captains just see the flight and immediate turn to help is stirring. Nothing wrong with the definition of "feel good".

How to fill the extra time? Well it turns out there's a good little-told story in here as well and as a psychologist friend pointed out, "of course they had PTSD". Sully had doubts afterwards and nightmares and wasn't really comfortable with the spotlight he was trust into. That's a good story and an easy way to fill out a movie.

The other problem is how to tell this story. If everyone knows the outcome and the recreation is your big showcase, then it doesn't make sense to lead with it. The solution director Clint Eastwood came up with I found a little annoying. They cut between the event and aftermath back and forth, ultimately showing the event three times. That was fine and surprisingly not really repetitive, but they use the structure to throw in dream sequences that I found unnecessary and which weren't obviously dreams to the viewer at first. That felt like cheap manipulation.

Worse, they felt the need to create a villain. As with all such events there was an investigation and I'm sure Sully and co-pilot Skiles found it stressful, but the movie portrays it as antagonistic and the investigative board as, frankly, assholes. Even not knowing what actually happened when watching the movie it felt false. Afterwards I found this New York Times article confirming my thoughts, ‘Sully’ Is Latest Historical Film to Prompt Off-Screen Drama. I much preferred the approach in The Martian, where there was no villain, just everyone working to solve the problem, some wanting to make different risk tradeoffs than others.

It's still a fine movie. The stirring parts are really stirring and it shows the important parts factually and they didn't stretch it to epic length. I don't expect it to be nominated for many Oscars but it's possible. Certainly worth a rental.

No comments: