On 15 January 2009, the world witnessed the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ when Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and career.
Even by the standards of a biopic about an incredibly famous man at the center of an incredibly famous real-life event there isn’t a ton of suspense in Sully. Everyone who was alive and conscious on January 15, 2009 remembers what happened that day, when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the plane was struck by birds during takeoff.(I certainly do; I’d just arrived at my condo for the Sundance Film Festival and watched the rescue efforts unfold on live television.)
Sully the man was almost immediately hailed as a hero, but Sully the movie focuses primarily on the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into whether his decisions during the crisis were justified. (SPOILER ALERT: They were.) As such, Sully’s character arc over the course of the film is basically “Self-effacing guy is told repeatedly he’s a hero until he finally believes it.” And because the entire incident from bird strike to crash landing took just 208 seconds (plus the all-important minutes spent evacuating the plane), there’s barely enough excitement for one modern action sequence, much less an entire 90-minute film. The whole reason why Sully and Flight 1549 are so famous is because no one died. So we’ve got a film about a good man who did a good thing and everyone was okay. Not exactly a nail-biter.