This is the Captain. Brace for impact.
You might initially think that the story of the guy landing the plane on the Hudson River doesn’t really have enough material for a feature film. And you’d be right. Eastwood’s film is technically well made and the sequence that actually follows the fateful flight from take-off to forced water landing on the Hudson is really solid and engaging. It dares to throw us into the jargon of the pilots without bothering to pause for us to keep up and this part of the film feels absolutely real and accurate. But there’s much in the rest of the film that is filler; the film stuffs in a lot of weird and unnecessary material and it still barely makes it over ninety minutes. The efforts to, at the last minute, make me care about some of the passengers on the flight via some very sloppy and uninteresting backstories takes up a fair amount of time without really accomplishing anything. There’s a lengthy section where the authorities run simulators in order to see if Sully could have made it to an airport and avoided the water landing and we get to see, not one, not two, not three, but four simulator runs of the flight. At this point, we’re just spinning our wheels and the climactic investigative hearing just goes on and on until I was more than ready for the film to end. There are good things here. First and most obvious, this is one of Hank’s best performances in a few years, I’d say. His Sully is haunted by the idea that he might have put his passengers at unnecessary risk, that he might have made a bad decision, and Hanks really embodies that quiet interior storm. The script deals with it, but not in a super-big way, which leaves it to Hanks’ performance and he really knocks it out of the park. Aaron Eckhart is very good as Sully’s co-pilot. Their relationship is the only one in the film that feels real and genuine. Sully’s relationship with his family is barely in the film at all and feels forced when it is. And the film is smart enough to understand where the conflict lies. The important thing isn’t that the authorities find that Sully acted appropriately, it’s that Sully himself finds peace with the decisions he made. The scene between Hanks & Eckhart where Sully finally realizes that he did exactly what he needed to do is really wonderful and comes before the decision is made by the authorities. It’s a canny way to set up the conflict of the film. But, on the whole, Hanks’ wonderful performance and that really well-crafted flight scene aside, it’s just a film that feels mostly uninteresting. It’s never really awful, but often forced and awkward. It’s a film that would have worked substantially better as a forty-five minute short, but forget that. As it stands, it’s feature length, but often forgettable. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – a wonderful centerpiece and a great Hanks performance can’t save this overlong, often forced film; stuffed with filler, it’s a feature length film that shouldn’t be. 2 ½ stars.