Clint Eastwood brings a grimly, grindingly efficient eye to the questioning of an American hero in Sully, a film about the pilot who safely landed a plane of 155 passengers in the icy Hudson River.
Tom Hanks gives Chesley Sullenberger an everyman moustache and panic attacks (last time I saw Hanks, in Inferno, as Robert Langdon, he was also having panic attacks) as he relives the experience in the run up to his trial following the amazing act of heroism and professionalism that saw him land his engine-less plane in New York’s river.
The interesting tack here is to concentrate the corporate follow-up, the investigation by the airline to establish if in fact Sully could have made it back to La Guardia airport and, instead of being a hero, had recklessly endangered the lives of his passengers.
So, we relive the events several times, both in real time, in Hanks’ head, and in flight simulations and in versions where also get the passengers’ eye view (a few brief backstories are peremptorily filled in, such as the father and son going on a golf trip), as well as the earnest co-pilot schtick from Aaron Eckhart who just wants to get to a steakhouse.
Eastwood’s late period examination of American heroes continues, but something’s missing from Sully. It’s well-made and lit by his usual photographer Tom Stern with a grey-tinged realism, but, like that fateful airplane, the film never really takes flight.