THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Sully’ flies, but doesn’t quite soar

Published 12:48 am Friday, September 9, 2016

We’ve all heard the story of Captain Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, the heroic airline pilot who managed to land his plane on the Hudson River after bird strikes knocked out both of his engines. The event was quickly dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson,” and the world cheered for the man who had seemingly done the impossible, saving all those lives in the process.

It’s no surprise that Hollywood would want to turn this real-life miracle into a cinematic feature. The problem is that the entire crash only lasted 208 seconds. How do you stretch that event out to a full length movie?

The answer comes with the investigation that followed the crash. I wasn’t aware that this had happened, because like most people, I stopped paying attention a few weeks after the plane went down.

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The new film pits our heroic pilot against a team of petty government investigators who are bent on tarnishing the hero’s good name. Their actions are a bit too melodramatic to ring true, but in the spirit of a simplistic melodrama, the end result is a film that should easily get audiences hissing at the villains while cheering on the good guys.

It helps that Tom Hanks has been cast in the title role. Hanks is such a beloved figure that his innate goodness seeps through into every character he plays. He is also a very good actor, which makes him the perfect choice to play Sullenberger, who is portrayed in the film is a man suffering from the trauma of the doomed flight.

Much of that torment comes thanks to a trio of investigators who are determined to prove that Sullenberger’s actions were to blame for the water landing. Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan and Mike O’Malley, in particular, come across as cartoonish bad guys. They are so unapologetically evil that they wouldn’t be out of place in a James Bond movie. Come to think of it, they wouldn’t be out of place in an Austin Powers movie either.

I suspect that is largely due to director Clint Eastwood’s political views. He is an artist who has always extolled the virtues of hard-working heroes while loathing those who would try to tear them down. This story is perfect for this viewpoint, giving him ample opportunity to rail against government bureaucrats. I understand what he’s trying to say here, but his passion gets in the way of crafting a truly believable story.

The crash, on the other hand, is absolutely thrilling. Thanks to the top notch special effects and a director who knows how to put an audience on the edge of their seats, the crash is certainly the highlight of the film. It’s no wonder that the filmmakers found ways to stage the crash multiple times over the course of the film.

The end result is a movie that will thrill, thanks to these superb action sequences, and get passions flowing thanks to the black-and-white duel between Sullenberger and the NTSB investigators. It is a lean, very entertaining film, with only the unbelievable bad guys keeping it from truly taking flight as a great movie.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at