Travelling by plane is safer than being a vegetarian. Fact. You can't dispute science. And despite recent tragedies, it is still one of the safest ways to travel. It's even safer if your pilot is one Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, who, after his plane ran into difficulties, managed to land it on New York's Hudson river. It's an incredible story, so it's no surprise that a film has been made.
It's the type of story that has made-for-TV sky-written all over it. And to a certain degree, that's exactly what director Clint Eastwood has made.
US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009. On board there were 255 people, including pilot Captain Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and his first officer Jeffrey Skiles (Aaron Eckhart).
It wasn't long after take-off that a flock of birds flew into not one but both engines, knocking them both out. This effectively turned the Airbus A320 into a rather large glider. With a major loss of altitude, Sully's options grew thinner by the minute, so much so that a return to LaGuardia wasn't on the cards. In fact landing at any near landing strip wasn't viable, and as he was above the middle of New York City, he felt he was left with only one choice - to land on the city's river, the Hudson.
Despite it sounding like a truly mission impossible, that's exactly what Sully did. Not only did he land the plane in the middle of the Hudson, but all 255 on board survived.
Unsurprisingly he was quickly dubbed a hero for his efforts by the media, and the ordeal itself was called a miracle. The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) saw it differently however. With the data they received, and the various simulations they ran subsequently, the plane was more than capable of returning to LaGuardia. They therefore felt that it was pilot error that caused the downing of the plane, and what should have been a routine report, suddenly felt like a trial, with Sully firmly in the dock. If they found him guilty of pilot error, that would be the end of his 42 year career as a pilot.
Clint Eastwood (America's very own Dennis Waterman: he often acts, directs, does the theme tune...) has chosen some incredibly diverse projects to work on over the years, and this one can be added to that growing list.
With Eastwood behind the camera, one of America's greatest actors in front of it, and an almost unbelievable true story to work with, it sounds like a film destined for success. unfortunately, it doesn't quite make it there.
Eastwood was clearly keen on not over sentimentalising the story, deciding instead to keep it all rather matter of factly. This approach probably would have worked if it wasn't for the fact that both leads, Hanks and Eckhart, give incredibly dry performances. In one sense it's refreshing that they both reflect their real life counterparts fairly accurately, but it does take the shine off of an incredible story. Sully lands the plane with the same kind of reaction he would give to driving a car that was indicating to come off the M1 motorway. Sure it was professional, but it does kind of suck all the drama out of the room.
By pulling back on the usual Hollywood theatrics, Eastwood has possibly gone too far in the opposite direction, and has ended up with less a stunning blockbuster, more a passable made-for-TV film. It's well made, but not as entertaining or dramatic as it could have been.
Considering the source material, and those involved in it, it's a huge surprise - and disappointment - that the result is oh-so average.
Like the plane itself, the film avoids taking a massive plunge, but also fails to soar to great heights. What should have been first class sadly ends up being standard all the way.