Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks are no strangers to the upper echelon of cinema’s “must watch” lists. As an almost rule, moviegoers can see their names etched onto a film’s promotional poster, and know that buying a ticket to see their film is a pretty safe bet. Their collaboration on “Sully” would appear at first glance to be no different, but such an observation would be inherently wrong. Upon exiting the theater, I began to wonder why Eastwood and Hanks would risk the legitimacy of their careers on telling a story that didn’t need to be told and was done so in such horrific fashion.
“Sully” tells the story of Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger (Hanks) and the aftermath of his heroic landing of a 155 passenger US Airways plane on the Hudson River. The story is told as a conglomerate of the present time hearing on the happenings of that Jan. 15, 2009 emergency landing and flashbacks to the actual flight, as well as flying memories from Sully’s past.
The film also mixes in PTSD visions of perceived failure and phone conversations Sully shares with his wife, Lorraine (Laura Linney) during the days immediately following the landing.
What was a truly remarkable real life story, proved to be an absolutely atrocious translation to the big screen. Though Eastwood is still a master behind the camera (after this film there is reason to believe he may be faltering), and performances from Hanks, Linney, and Aaron Eckhart, who plays Sully’s co-pilot, are on point the film falls completely flat. What made Eastwood’s films, “Mystic River” (2003) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) so compelling was their ability to build a purpose for viewing. His precision as a filmmaker enhanced the storytelling in those films. Here, no filmmaker could save the disaster behind Todd Komarnicki’s script.
Komarnicki has been the principle screen-writer on one other film prior to “Sully,” 2007’s “Perfect Stranger.” I have never seen it, and because of his work here I never will. I would go as far as saying he should never be allowed to write another major motion picture ever again. Unfortunately its a little late for that as he has two films already in the pipeline.
What makes Komarnicki’s work so bad is a seemingly forced conflict that lacks even the slightest realism. While we are on the topic of realism, the dialogue sounds nothing like the way real people speak, and only serves the purpose of proving points throughout the film. For a film with just over a 90 minute runtime, it seems as though Komarnicki is grasping for content, as he essentially writes the exact same scene twice and allows it to play out in its entirety.
Mike O’Malley is forced into a villain role as Charles Porter, the man behind bringing charges of negligence against Sully. There is no warrant for him to be so hellbent on proving Sully guilty of such negligence, and it comes across as the film trying to make a story out of nothing. Yes, Sully, the person, should be classified a hero, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a dramatic film needs to be made about that day and the proceedings that followed. The story is much more fit for a documentary than a major motion picture. Which begs the question, why did all these major film players feel it necessary to make this film?
“Sully” looks good as a result of expert camerawork and top notch special effects. Even the music written by Christian Jacob is serviceable for a high quality film. The actors involved put forth a valiant effort to save a screenplay that is a disgrace to their skill. The film has many of the makings of an Oscar contender, but none of them can overcome the blueprint provided by Komarnicki. I wonder if any of them even read the script before signing on to this project. I can only imagine there was better work out there for the majority of them.
If there is anything I can take away from my experience in going to the theater to see “Sully,” it is there are no guarantees when it comes to films and the directors and actors associated with them. In an interesting world, there are plenty of interesting stories worth being told in the form of film.
“Sully” just happened to not be one of them. Unless you are looking for a film to watch with your friends and chuckle over its laughable dialogue, don’t bother wasting your time. Even if that is your ultimate goal, you can surely find better options.