Back in January 2009, Chesney ‘Sully’ Sullenburger (Tom Hanks) was departing from a New York airport to Charlotte, North Carolina, when his plane was suddenly hit by a flock of Canada Geese. This knocked out both engines meaning that the plane was essentially a glider. Suffering loss of thrust above one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Sully quickly deduced that it was impossible to arrive at any of the surrounding airports, and the only option was the river Hudson. Sully landed the plane with remarkable skill, but the ordeal wasn't over yet as water flooded in. The rescue services acted quickly and all 155 people on the plane were saved. Eastwood’s most recent film is about the heroic actions of Sully, and the recent aftermath which includes traumatic flashbacks and the NTSB investigation.
Having had a song dedicated to him (it become popular after featuring in the movie Drive) its no surprise that a film was dedicated to him shortly after. Even though Sully will modestly claim that he was just doing his job he, undoubtedly, went about doing that job in a calm, professional and experienced manner that saved the lives of everyone on board and possible countless others in the city itself. The film depicts the accident in great detail (showing it from multiple perspectives), and shows the expert coolness that the two pilots went about their job. There’s no shouting or barked orders, but instead it’s about as calm and measured as it was possible to be.
It’s an extraordinary true story that really didn’t need any dramatic liberties with the truth being taken. Sadly, however, Todd Komarnicki’s script seems to depict the NTSB as sniding pantomime villains when the truth is completely different (they in fact worked with Sully rather than against him). It is somewhat frustrating because there’s a better story in there about how Sully coped with the aftermath, especially his PTSD, doubting his own actions, media commitments, and the effect his actions had on the survivors and their loved ones. There’s some mention of the pressures placed upon Sully’s family, but Laura Linney is completely wasted in the role that only has her crying on the phone.
Clint Eastwood’s moving and inspiring film presents Sully as nothing short of a hero because of his actions, modesty and the plaudits he dedicates to the crew, passengers, and emergency services who were all responsible for the death free plane crash. Tom Hanks is serviceable as ever as Sully, playing the man with great respect. It’s really a film where the story gives it the perfect footing, a story as brilliant as this is almost impossible to ruin and Eastwood handles the material well even if the villainous depiction of the NTSB is unfair and unhelpful.
The closing credits showing Sully meeting the passengers at a special event is worth staying for.