The worth of a human soul valued against corporate insurance companies is one of the themes that Clint Eastwood attempted to focus upon when he directed and produced ‘Sully’, a film depicting the heroic events performed by Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenerger and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, when they landed flight 1549 in the Hudson River. Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Anna Gunn and Laura Linney.
The film has a runtime of 1hr 36m, so minus both the opening and closing credits, the actual runtime is close to just over 1hr 20m. In that time we experience the crash twice, once in the middle of the film from the perspective of the cabin crew, Pilot and Co-Pilot, then once more at the end as they listen/relive the contents of the Blackbox audio file. So taking all of this into account the runtime is actually roughly 1hr 10m. This is one example to indicate Eastwood’s inability to direct what should have been a film with a greater depth and emotional investment.
Admittedly, I know very little about this story besides knowing these facts, Sully was forced to land a plane on the Hudson river following a flock of birds destroying both engines. I also know that Sully was investigated over a number of years as insurance companies continually questioned his every motive, his actions, his mood, his lifestyle and his marriage. Now that I have watched ‘Sully’ I feel as though my knowledge has not any further enriched or enlightened, which is frustrating given the cast and real potential of this subject matter.
Eastwood really seems to have struggled to adapt this story with the degree of depth we may have expected from such a talented cast, though he does attempt to provide us with a broader understanding of the events beyond the legal case. One such scene involves an unsettling interview with David Letterman, using an old interview with the real Sully and his crew, they then edited this scene by importing the cast of the film.
So when taking all the above into consideration, Eastwood is an exceptionally lucky individual. The script and the cast absolutely raise the bar and manage to make this film into something greater, a lesser cast would have seriously struggled. Tom Hanks is marvellous, we all know this, and we all love him for it. Aaron Eckhart seems to be returning to form after leaving the debacle of those presidential films, he now reminds us that he is actually quite a good actor. Anna Gunn, best known for her role in ‘Breaking Bad’, is quite an underrated actor, she provides the panel of investigators a feeling of sympathy but also intensity in her role. Laura Linney, another underrated actor, is compelling despite the little amount of material she had to work with. The script is intelligent with some really striking moments.
The film opens with Sully flying the plane, it crashes into several buildings, only to be revealed as a dream sequence. Sully then stands inside a tall building, observing the city through a floor to ceiling glass window, he imagines another plane crashing in front of him. This is Eastwood’s attempt at humanising this heroic figure by instilling the idea that he has doubts regarding his own ability, particularly with the insurance companies planting seeds of doubt in Sully’s mind; however, to open the film in this manner also undermines Sully’s character and the skill of his accomplishment as we have yet to actually witness the flight. Had the scene opened firstly with the actual flight, then landing in the Hudson followed by the investigation by the insurance companies, who would then cause Sully to doubt himself and relive those events manipulated by his own mind, I feel that would have made for a more successful, compelling and straight forward narrative. This clearly is Eastwood trying to reach further than he can really grasp, thank god for the script and cast.
OVERALL *** Thanks to the efforts of Tom Hanks and the rest of the cast, this film is saved, even if the narrative and editing are slowly sinking to the bottom of a river.
RECOMMENDATION- Watch Hanks and the cast if you must, otherwise wait for the next Tom Hanks film to emerge.