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Sully (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 96 minutes.

OK for children.

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. `Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. “Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland.

Based on the book Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) wrote with Jeffrey Zaslow, Higher Duty, director Clint Eastwood would have been better served if he had remembered this sage advice. Instead, he tells the story of and Sully’s dramatic landing of his plane in the Hudson River, which became known as “Miracle on the Hudson,” non-linearly, starting near the end and flashing back to the beginning. The result is a soporific first 30 minutes that is almost deadly.

This is most unfortunate because once the film gets into the story of the flight and the landing and then continues with the story of the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it’s exceptionally well done.

But Clint starts out with the hearing held after the heroic landing and picks up Sully when he’s under siege. Most of us didn’t know about any federal hearing, so this was news to me, as it was to my guest at the screening.

But why start out the film with something so unfamiliar? I wish they’d re-edit this film and tell it chronologically instead of in flashbacks.

There are fine performances throughout, especially by Laura Linney as Sully’s wife, Lorrie. Aaron Eckhardt is fine as Sully’s co-pilot Jeff Skiles.

The film reaches its peak when it shows the landing in the Hudson with wonderful special effects, probably as close to reality as they could get.

While Hanks gives a good performance, the man he portrays isn’t the Sully most of us have come to know through seeing him on TV. Hanks plays Sully as a sullen, worried, worried man. That’s certainly not the impression I had of him because all the pictures show him smiling and upbeat. In fact, I recently saw an interview with him and he was still smiling and upbeat. The clips shown with the end credits show him smiling. But I can’t recall Hanks smiling once in the entire film. Sully’s personality in the film is so far from what comes through when seeing him on television it was grating.

Even so, the last hour is good enough that these deficiencies pale into the background.