Clint Eastwood’s film “Sully”, tells the story of the forced landing (or crash, as some people characterized it) of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson river on January 15, 2009. Tom Hanks realistically portrays Captain Sullenberger as a competent and confident pilot who finds himself in some unfortunate situations, both dealing with losing the thrust in the engines of his plane after hitting a flock of birds, and also having to deal with the aftermath, with the investigation by the NTSB.
We all know how it turns out because we’ve all seen the photos, and the real Sully being praised as a hero on TV. So there really isn’t a lot of uncertainty for us as the viewer as to how everything is going to turn out. What the movie is there for, is to show us HOW it turned out how it did. How the NTSB investigated, and how Sully and his wife Lorraine (played by Laura Linney) deal with it all.
There are a few flashbacks showing Sully learning to fly as a teenager, and also a little bit of his military career. And we also see the entire flight, from the points of view of Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (played by Aaron Eckhart), as well as from the point of view of a few of the passengers and the rest of the flight crew. What struck me the most is just how fast everything happened, and how quickly Sully had to come to his decision. Also, I didn’t remember just how many people came together after the crash to rescue the passengers from the planes.
I don’t know to what extent the truth is stretched in this film, but it’s an excellent story. I’m not sure that all of it works perfectly. The phone conversations that Sully has with his wife don’t feel natural. I’m also not quite sure about the reality of the degree of doubt that his superiors had about his decision to land on the Hudson, how close did he actually come to being treated as the one responsible for crashing a plane, instead of what happened, being treated as a hero who saved all of those passengers lives. Maybe it’s true, and if it is, then I’ll apologize for my doubts, but it seems like that was contrived to create drama. But I could be wrong. On rare occasions, reality can feel contrived.
Overall, this is a feel-good movie. And it works on that level. This is not one of Tom Hanks best roles, and this is not one of Clint Eastwood’s best films. But that would be expecting too much. It definitely is a movie that you should see, if you want to relive the “Miracle on the Hudson”, or learn more about it. The only thing I will add is that it was a very pleasant way to spend some time at the movies. And if you were amazed the first time you heard the story on the news, you’ll be amazed all over again. Now here’s the trailer.