In January 2009, the world bore witness to the "miracle on the Hudson" - when U.S. Airways flight 1549 made an emergency water landing on New York's Hudson River. All 155 souls onboard (including crew) survived, reasonably unscathed. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was hailed a hero not just by the passengers, but by the media and the rest of America, along with his First Officer Jeff Skiles. Even after media vultures did their digging, Sully still stood up as an exceptional pilot, husband, father and all-round good guy. 42 years in the air and his entire life and career will be defined by the 208 seconds it took from the bird strike that doomed the flight, to the eventual ditching in the Hudson. It was calm, it was precision, it was heroic and it was the right thing to do. So where exactly is the story here?
Director Clint Eastwood seems to believe that 208 seconds is worthy of 96 minutes of screen time. I respectfully disagree. Eastwood is a superb filmmaker, most of the time, and this time he’s turned "stretching" into an art form. Some can argue that the film 'Sully' isn’t about the event itself but the people involved and the investigation that followed. Sure, they would be right, so let’s explore this idea. Eastwood has now made a film about a pilot’s glimmer of self-doubt following an unprecedented aeronautical event. Understandable. And the investigation that followed concluded that no mechanical or safety error on the part of the pilot, airline, manufacturers or crew on the ground or in the air, was made. This we already knew. It was a freak bird strike - an occurrence which while rare but not uncommon, hence there’s a name for it. So once again I ask, where is the story? There are no grieving families, no bad guys and no skeletons to expose, just a group of people doing their jobs and doing them well under stressful and unorthodox circumstances. Not exactly riveting stuff.
Ultimately it’s boring.
Clint Eastwood has assembled a wonderful cast led by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks in the title role. The film is shot and edited smoothly and beautifully, but ultimately it’s boring. As one of the most watched, read, sought-after and publicised stories of the last decade, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been seen or said about the miracle on the Hudson, and unfortunately Eastwood has nothing to add. Great stories don’t always translate into great films.