On January 15th, 2009 Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, successfully landed a US Airways aircraft on the Hudson River shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport when multiple bird strikes caused a loss of power to both of the aircraft’s engines. The fact that all 155 passengers and crew survived this forced water landing with only a few minor injuries is why this event was dubbed “The Miracle on the Hudson”. These are the basic facts and the “plot” of the new Clint Eastwood movie, Sully.
As with any movie about true events that are widely known, I was uncertain if Sully would be a compelling drama or just a mildly interesting documentary. But, with Eastwood as the director and Tom Hanks as the star I was optimistic.
I was not disappointed. This film shows us the events of that morning not just from the perspective of the flight crew. We see the Air Traffic controller, the first responders, Sully’s wife Lorraine (Laura Linney), and from others who witnessed the events of that morning.
We see Sully himself a the complete professional. And in this I mean that true professionals not only are competent but are the first to question their own actions. And we do see Sully with his doubts. Tom Hanks has always been the “every man” type of actor. Because of this he was perfect to play a hero who did not think of himself as one. In Sully we see the doubts behind his eyes, his movements and his. Hanks is capable of expressing more emotion without peaking than any other actor can with a paragraph of dialog.
Did he do everything possible to save the plane? Are the simulations that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) correct? Could he have landed the plane back at an airport? Sully is also haunted by visions and dreams of what might have happened. We see that even though he did save everyone, what might have happened was more disturbing that the doubts. As someone said, “It’s been a long time that New York has had news this good, especially with an airplane in it”.
Seeing the events from multiple points of view could have been at best repetitive and at worst boring. But director Eastwood and editor Blu Murry (J. Edgar and Gran Torino) found a way to use the multiple views to build tension in the drama that culminates in the NTSB crash investigation (Sully: “it was not a crash is was a forced water landing”).
Yes, the NTSB at first thought that the aircraft could have been saved and they had a lot of data and no small amount of assumptions in this direction. But, even though we know that Sully was a hero and that his actions saved everyone on that flight we are riveted by the process that confirms that fact officially.