So as most will come to realize after seeing the trailer or tv spots, I had no idea that the NTSB went this hard after the pilots of US Airways flight 1549. I had read and watched all the reports those few years ago about how Sully saved the plane and those people on board the Airbus a320, a quality plane I often fly on.
Director Clint Eastwood finally takes a step back (in a good way) in stripping down this movie from being too American Sniper and making it feel like we are friends with Sully and his crew and can’t believe what they had to go through. Clint focuses on the key players and not worry too much about the survivor stories as if you know the history of this event that there were no major dramas that unfolded. I don’t mean to sound diminishing of their survival but if you want more info on their rescue I recommend you watch the Air Crash Investigation episode on this flight, which can easily be found on YouTube. It is good.
The story revolving the crash, Sully’s emotions including his fears, his memories, and his determination are kept tight with this script and direction. Tom Hanks portrays him masterly, though, in my opinion, the performer of this movie is Aaron Eckhart. Eckhart portrays First Officer Jeffrey Skiles. Skiles midwestern humor and with bring levity to the whole situation and helps Sully find that determination that is needed once the full showdown with the NTSB takes place. Eckhart also has the best line of the movie. Throughout the movie, Sully is in touch with his wife who of course is traumatized as well with the events that have just taken place. To go through a marriage where you are constantly separated from your partner due to work is hard enough, but to be apart during times of trouble and not having the ability to console one another in person is even worse. Laura Linney plays Lorraine, Sully’s wife. Linney is one of my favorite actresses. Underrated in my mind. Sadly, she is one of my two dislikes about the movie. When Sully and Lorraine have their phone calls, I feel myself feeling for Sully, I feel the pain but with Lorraine, it just is not there. I think Linney is misused here and Clint easily could have had the scenes of Sully talking to his wife on the phone just use him and we hear the voice of Lorraine over the phone. It would have kept the pacing the same and increase the pain we feel for Sully.
My second issue, though small, is still important in my mind. the CGI. We are in a period of the best technology with CGI that we have ever been. Have you seen the trailer for Rogue One? Can you tell if the death star and star destroyers are models or CGI? I can’t. That is important. The first time we see the plane, I kind of cringed because the trailer shots we have seen showed us a decent looking CGI plane. Too many times in this movie were the use of camera angles and shots to give us that action and feel of how the plane was going down failed to deliver. There were a few good shots as well. For a movie of this importance where the plane is a character, the CGI should have been better. I have seen episodes of Air Crash Investigation with better CGI. Yes, a long paragraph for a minor detail but hey it is 2016. Plenty of movie studios are doing wonders with CGI with creatures and vehicles that are made up from imagination. Ain airplane exists in real life and should be replicated better.
Overall I was entertained. I connected with pilots. I hated the NTSB. They were doing their job yes, but while they are not there to be friends to the pilots to make sure the investigation is not tainted, they forgot to not be jerks. This movie is short too. Only an hour and a half. Though the previews took about a half hour so plan on two hours in the theater. Stay for the credits as they real crew and passengers share some stories and it was nice to see all these people who stay close because they survived. It gives you a sense that there is still hope for this country after this awful upcoming election.
update – I have, of course, read some backlash from the people behind the NTSB. I know there are always liberties taken with movies based on true events. I know the NTSB has to try to stay neutral and not praise or criticize a flight crew until all the facts come to light. The fact that the NTSB has come out and said they never were that tough on them and in fact they claimed to be more praiseful than they should have been, will be taken with a grain of salt as will now the portrayal of the NTSB by Eastwood. The NTSB is a fantastic organization and has helped bring closure and advancements in safety measures for worldwide aviation. So if Eastwood did take extreme liberties with how they portrayed the NTSB I will lower my score. Drama is great in dramatic movies, but if a character is blatantly skewed for dramatic purposes (see The Insider) then I will take great issue with that because this movie still had plenty of drama.