‘Sully’ stuck on auto-pilot

Tom Hanks is once again in danger in the latest Clint Eastwood film “Sully,” the story of the events that happened Jan. 15, 2009 when Capt. Sullenberger miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board. The flight that lasted around six minutes is stretched into an hour and a half film that delivers on most fronts, but ultimately leaves more to be desired.

The total landing sequence takes around 20 minutes or so of the films running time with the remaining 70 minutes mainly showing the aftermath and our protagonist dealing with the emotional and professional repercussions of the incident. We see chilling flashbacks and nightmare scenes including a plane crashing through a building through the eyes of Sully, but I walked away feeling like I knew the man no more than what I had already seen through prime time television.

Tom Hanks delivers a perennially strong performance, as does Aaron Eckhart, who plays the role of Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles. Much of the film’s mood is somber and serious in tone but there are moments of humor that bring light into what is an otherwise cold affair. One of the things I enjoyed more about this film was the presence and humanity it gave to the first responders and passengers on board the plane who are unsung heroes in a way when you consider the attention mainly focused on Sullenberger. Laura Linney plays Sully’s wife Lorraine but her screen time is short and the few insights into her character are really only seen through teary-eyed sequences on the phone.

The films closest thing to an antagonist is the National Transportation Safety Board, who were controversially depicted as being overly persecuting and determined to prove that Sully actually endangered the lives of the passengers by failing to return to the airport from which he came. Accusations claimed that Eastwood was attempting to sneak in his Libertarian views on authority by showing the NTSB as being incompetent and out to end Sully’s career.

This isn’t Eastwood’s best film, but after releasing ten films in ten years and being at the age of 86, it’s hard to be upset with this effort, especially coming off of “American Sniper” and some recent stinkers like “Jersey Boys” or “J. Edgar.” It’s hard to go wrong here when you have an actor like Tom Hanks playing the role of someone Middle America loves: the average working person turned hero through unforeseen circumstances.