I was initially wondering how they would make a 30 minute event into a full-length feature. But then I remember, this is Hollywood–they can do whatever they want.
Sully is based on the true story of 2009’s “Miracle on the Hudson” where Captain Chesley Sullenberger had to safely land a plane after a flock of geese flew into both engines, causing them to fail.
The event was traumatic enough, but this film mostly details the airline investigation following the incident. Director Clint Eastwood wisely circles the narrative around, sprinkling the action amidst the drama, keeping the pacing up and saving us from having to experience a long, uninterrupted National Transportation Safety Board hearing.
Throughout the film, Sullenberger is seen interacting with his wife, played by Laura Linney, on the phone. It’s an interesting choice not to have them face to face in person. I’ve struggled to find a good reason why. Perhaps keeping them apart is to emphasize the film’s “delay is better than disaster” theme. Or maybe it’s to distance Sully from his family and show how he just longs to be home, creating irony around how he was nearly never to be home again. Or it might just be an interesting quirk that Eastwood decided to include. Whatever it is, it’s unique and adds to the film’s appeal.
Perhaps the only thing that’s distracting, though, is Linney’s acting. It might seem like it’s good on the surface. She shows a lot of emotion, yet is strong when she needs to be, but her delivery is just so off much of the time. It’s not believable. It feels like she knows she’s acting and is trying her best to sell it. Maybe it’s because she was acting into a phone the whole time.
But that’s a minor setback. The film is uplifting, just like the 2009 event itself. It gives us a glimpse inside the mind of an American hero. A normal, everyman who lifted our country’s spirits during a time when we really needed it. The film doesn’t ruffle any feathers (believe it or not, pun actually not intended). Nor does it ever really make you ever second-guess our protagonist–which is for the best, I think, in this situation. But it takes what it has and does its very best turning the material into one heck of an ode to a memorable person and event of the early 21st century.