The film Sully, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who heroically landed a US Airways flight on the Hudson River. Or at least that’s what the filmmakers want you to think. Sully tells a story, but it’s not the story we all know and love from real life. To be honest I’m not sure what in the hell they were trying to convey. Eastwood takes way too much creative license and comes up with an incoherent mess.
(Lots of spoilers below, so beware.)
The film starts off with Hanks as Sully in the cockpit, talking to his copilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart). The two start off with the usual pleasantries about flying, though it does come off very artificial and forced (example: Eckhart remarks, “God I love flying planes, something I’ve done many, many, many times. See these little wings on my lapel? That means I’m a pilot.”).
As bad as that dialogue was, it was forgivable. At that point you’re less than a minute into the movie, so you’re still hoping it can turn around. But what comes next is inexcusable. After a few moments of the two randomly clicking buttons and pulling levers with no rhyme or reason, Hanks demolishes the fourth wall by cracking a smile, looking at Eckhart, and saying, “How ridiculous do these fake moustaches look on us? I mean c’mon…”
The film may as well have been over then, as it’s clear the two leads have no interest in creating a believable reality. Hanks even mumbles, “I haven’t had a movie mustache this bad since Perdition,” an apparent reference to 2002 historical crime drama Road to Perdition in which Hanks starred. Eckhart then goes, “Clear for takeoff,” and the two make motor noises with their mouths as if they’re an airplane engine. I get that Hollywood budgets are getting tighter and tighter, but c’mon guys…invest in some sound effects!
After about ten minutes of those two pretending to take off, Hanks pulls out a Club (like one you put on your car) and says, “Time to go on autopilot,” and starts smoking a cigarette. Taking a drag, Hanks says, “You know what I don’t get? My first name is Sully, but my last name is Sullenberger. I mean, my first name sounds just like my last name. How fucked up is that?”
Eckhart laughs. “Nah man, ‘Sully’ is just a nickname. Your real name is Chesley.”
Hanks snorts. “Ches-ley? Shouldn’t it be Chel-sea? And isn’t that a chick’s name?”
Eckhart then does a double take and looks at Hanks a little closer this time. “Dude, are you high?”
Hanks laughs for about 15 seconds without answering.
“Oh no no no no, that’s fucked up man. That is FUCKED. UP. You’re piloting an AIRPLANE. I mean, I’m high too, but I’m only the copilot.”
Hanks then smirks derisively and does the jerkoff motion. “I mean, this isn’t real. It’s all pretend. This isn’t a real plane. It’s fake.” Hanks waves right into the camera.
Eckhart starts to panic. “How can you be sure of that though?” He wipes his brow. “I’ll be honest, I got so high I’m not even sure we’re still in a movie. What if this is real?”
A look of dread comes over Hanks’ face. “What if you’re right? Oh my God…what are we going to do, Aaron?”
The lights in the cockpit go red (is that even what happens in planes when they crash?) followed by a PA announcer saying, “DANGER, DANGER. US AIRWAYS FLIGHT 1549 IS APPROACHING A GIANT FUCKING NEW YORK MOUNTAIN. BETTER PUT IT IN THE LAKE, SULLY.”
Hanks slaps himself in the face, takes a swig of coffee, then says, “You know what? This may have startd as a movie, but I’m fucking Sully now. I outsmarted those real life Somali pirates, why can’t I do this too? Let’s land this thing.” The picture then cuts to black followed by a title card:
“Flight 1549 had to land in the Atlantic Ocean that day to avoid hitting Mt. Everest because Sully was too fucked up to fly. Let this be a lesson to all you kids: don’t smoke dope then go try and fly a plane. Take your car instead.” That’s followed by a quick cut to Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Unbelievable. It was literally 15 minutes long. The worst part? I went back and checked Wikipedia and none of that even happened. Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood may be Hollywood legends, but this movie is for the birds…birds sucked into a jet engine.
Sully (2016): 2 out of 4 stars. Check local listings for locations and times. Rated PG-13 for strong language, drug use, and no one in the movie even really trying to pretend it isn’t a movie.
Also: I can say with some certainty that Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood, and Sully himself would all want you to sign up for my email list.