Like American Sniper (2014), Clint Eastwood's Sully is a movie of nightmares. In Sniper, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) sits rigidly in the living room, imagining the gunfire, roaring helicopters and wailing bystanders of Fallujah playing out on a turned-off television as his children race through the house. In Sully, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) has his own post-trauma TV-set hallucinations: In the middle of a restless half-sleep in a Times Square Marriott, he sees Katie Couric appear on the screen and call him out for making a "wrong choice" in landing U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.
Clint Eastwood is 86 -- an old, rich white man -- and has a habit of making misguided and out-of-touch observations to the press. Eastwood also has taken to making staid biopics with uncool technical gaffes that get treated like smoking guns by Reddit and Twitter. To come across the garish makeup jobs of J. Edgar (2011) or the fake-baby scene of Sniper on one's social-media feed is to see Eastwood treated as a kind of defeated dinosaur.
Sully stands to do him no favors in these regards: This is a talky, mild-mannered drama about stoic, middle-aged white men exhibiting poise amid chaos and illustrating the sanctity of simply doing one's job. It's also, at 96 minutes, rather underlength for latter-day Eastwood. That it doesn't feel like Sully should have been any longer suggests this material is a little more dry, this hero a little more bland, his conflicts less complex than in the example set by Sniper. And yet it's worth seeing: There is in Sully -- as in Sniper -- a purposefully conflicted reckoning with the very tenets of American heroism.