“Sully” seems to have everything that you could hope for in an Oscar nominee: a strong performance by Tom Hanks, direction by Clint Eastwood, a topical event in American history, the emotions of a plane full of victims, and a fascinating disaster sequence. Surprisingly, it hit well below the mark of expectation. I can’t imagine that anybody would walk out of the theater disappointed, as it satisfies our curiosity about the events surrounding the Hudson River landing. But it seems like such an obvious Oscar pick on the surface that it simply does not live up to that standard. The script hits all of the right notes, focusing on the humble yet heroic Sullenberger, serving as an homage to New York’s first responders, and utilizing the vast array of emotions displayed by the passengers on the plan. The script also hinders the story’s development. It presents the events from several perspectives including the pilot, the passengers, the ferry boat operators, and air traffic control, but it becomes one too many reenactments of the crash sequence. We walk into this film wanting to learn more about the events surrounding the Hudson River landing but by the time the last enactment rolls around, it is nearly a direct repetition of the previous one. I was also disappointed to discover that the film’s portrayal of the NTSB is inaccurate, painting them as a group of prosecutors trying to force guilt upon the captain. It makes for good drama as it emphasizes the humility of Sully in the face of his detractors, but it also strays from the true events of the hearing. The film boasts good performances from Aaron Eckhart, Mike O’Malley, Laura Linney, and particularly Hanks. He is convincing with gray hair and the role fits his likeable personality; however, when you rank this performance within his larger body of work, it comes out as average. The largest disappointment was some of the airplane special effects that resembled a video game or simulation, while other moments would easily be confused with live footage of this catastrophic event. If some of the special effects can be realistic, they all should be realistic. "Sully" will not live up to your Oscar expectations but if you can view it outside of that lens, it successfully delivers a heroic story about a selfless man who saved a plane full of people.
[Pictured: Hanks rocks the gray hair, Eckhart's mustache is off the cuff, and then something happens involving an airplane]