“Sully” Flies High Before Landing on the Hudson

Starring Tom Hanks, the film Sully begins with airline captain, Chesley Sullenberger, questioning himself on the bravest day of his life, in which he successfully lands US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River.

We see moments in flashback leading up to the crash and glimpses into the lives of a few passengers, without delving into them enough to develop any real emotional attachment, and observe a humble and unassuming Captain Sully preparing for takeoff with several off-track comments between himself and his copilot, First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, played by a mustached Aaron Eckhart.

The crash itself, while undoubtedly hush-inducing, is anything but jarring, except for perhaps the stewardesses continual repeating of, “Brace, brace, brace! Heads down, stay down!” and the emotional pull expected between Sully and his wife, portrayed by the versatile Laura Linney, is a let-down of disappointment, with rational, calm statements between the two of them for the majority of the time, and Mrs. Sullenberger’s stronger reaction to the press camping outside her house and to her family’s financial condition than to her husband being nearly tragically killed.

While the struggle of proving himself to the investigation of the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is depicted as intimidating, the greater struggle is shown to be waging within the mind of Captain Sully himself, who must prove to the board, but more importantly to himself, that his decision to land the aircraft in the water was not a flippant decision endangering the 155 passengers, but one laced with expertise and ability, which concluded in saving the lives of each person. The journey of Sully coming to this understanding is compelling in a quiet way, but strangely undramatic for a film in the drama genre, with scenes of night contemplations and throwbacks to his early piloting days as a substitute for heart-rending, rock-bottom moments. During the final scene, the resourcefulness of Sully’s mind sheds new light on the investigation which absolves him of any negative ramification and manages to, if possible, cast an even greater halo over the heroic silver head of Sully.

For all of us viewers who sat in the theater this past weekend expecting something that would rattle us, it didn’t much rattle. For a film with all of the ingredients of an adrenaline-flushing, emotionally-charging storyline, viewers like me instead left the theatre ruminating over and wishing for the heroic species of everyday manhood Captain Sully exemplified, while simultaneously disappointed in the meager-emotion of Tom Hank’s performance and the anticlimactic screenwriting of Todd Komarnicki.