The main conflict driving Sully is the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into US Airways Flight 1549. The implicit question seems to be: Was Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger really a hero? To which presumably every viewer would respond, “Of course!” I suppose the NTSB must do their due diligence to determine if an emergency runway landing was possible, but at a certain point (i.e., right away), you can’t help but ask, “These people do realize that both engines failed and yet everyone survived, don’t they?”
The easy criticism would be to say that Sully should have just focused on the actual Hudson River landing (by far its strongest feature in both technical and dramatic heft). The trouble, though, is that wouldn’t make for a very long movie. The birds fly into the engines almost immediately, there are then only a few minutes to decide what to do, and rescue crews are right on the scene. If this were all shown in real time, it would last about 30 minutes. The entire flight is basically presented twice over, and that is mostly a good decision.
Eventually, everyone decides that indeed this was heroism of the highest order (and not just from Sully, but from everybody involved), and somehow, instead of saying, “Took you long enough,” I instead was roused (and relieved by a zinger of a final line). That is due mostly to high-class acting – of course Tom Hanks as Sully, with Aaron Eckhart right by his side, and also Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan too awesome to hate as the NTSB crew. (Laura Linney does what she can with the cliché role of “hero’s wife on phone,” which is to say: she’s Laura Linney.) The ultimate results of the investigation declare: this rescue was even more amazing than we could have ever imagined. We were already pretty sure about that, but now we’re sure enough to last two lifetimes.
I give Sully 8 Happy Endings out of 10 Frantic Phone Calls, but I must take away 2 Canadian Geese for the Probably Unfair Treatment of the NTSB.