The Watchers

The Watchers

Friday, 30 December 2016

Review: Sully: Miracle On The Hudson (UK Cert 12A)

On January 15 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport in New York, travelling to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina. Barely minutes into the flight, the flight suffered engine loss due to a bird strike. With 155 lives in the balance, pilots Captain Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger III and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles did the impossible: they performed a water landing on the Hudson River. The whole event- from bird strike to landing- took just 208 seconds, and it was done with no loss of life. This incredible true-life story has now been made into a film, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as Skiles.

I'm sure I've said several times before that I'm not a massive Tom Hanks fan. That said, he's always a safe pair of hands; you can always depend on him to put in a solid, decent performance. That is very true here: he plays Sully as a thoroughly decent and likeable man, humble, self-effacing, thrown into a media storm for doing his job and having to come to terms with that. Unsurprisingly, there are questions to be asked when something like this happens and the film is then set up almost as a courtroom drama as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) begins its investigation. Here's where things start to skew a little; the film shows the NTSB as accusatory and prosecutorial, seeking to disprove Sully's version of events and showing him to have acted wrongly by performing the water landing and that the cause of the crash was pilot error; such a finding would have ended Sully's career. 

Other performances are decent enough; Eckhart is strong as the no-nonsense Skiles, although he's not given a whole lot to do throughout. Similarly, Laura Linney feels wasted as Sully's wife Lorraine, popping up throughout to cry or to harangue Sully (or maybe that's just how I saw it; she didn't exactly feel or seem supportive until the very end). The script attempts to flesh out the stories of some of the passengers- a father-son golfing trip, a wheelchair-using woman and her daughter, a new mother- but it all feels very surface and, crucially, you don't really care about them. Well, I didn't at least. 

Eastwood's direction is solid and the reconstruction of the plane crash and landing is done well. Some scenes play out like an anodyne version of the 2012 Robert Zemeckis film Flight- here, there's no suggestion of impropriety or alcohol/drug misuse- but the investigation scenes play well. It feels a little muddled which, given a relatively short runtime of 96 minutes, is a surprise.

However, the film is, at its core, a paean to 'the human factor'. It is this that Sully points out during the investigation; a computer simulation can only do so much. You need the human factor, its insight and experience, to inform decisions made- for good and bad. In a moment of crisis, humanity can pull together and help those who need it (an end-card gives praise to the coastguards, ferry crews, police and firefighters who helped rescue the passengers from the ditched plane). Given the darkness of our current times, this is a timely message.

All said, solid if unremarkable. 

Rating: 3 out of 5


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