In honour of the tenth anniversary of the miracle on the Hudson, I decided to re-watch Sully. Tom Hanks shines again in another aviation movie, however similar to his likeable performance in The Terminal; Hanks spends very little of this film in the air. It’s a solemn film-biography from director Clint Eastwood about Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s, remarkable courage of salvaging doomed US Airways Flight 1549, safely landing the A320 on New York’s Hudson River after a geese strike disabled both engines – and the result, all onboard survived. This complex tale of heroism told through the protagonist ‘Sully” (Tom Hanks) provides a detailed retelling of the events from the infamous “Miracle on the Hudson”, which saw the extraordinary captain, pull off one of the most celebrated landings of all time (If landing is even the right word for such a successful ditching of an aircraft).

Image Wikipedia: Flight path flown (red). Alternative trajectories to Teterboro (dark blue) and back toward La Guardia (magenta) were simulated for the investigation.

The film based on Sullenberger’s autobiography “Highest Duty” focuses on the aftermath of the accident, as Sully relives the crash, contemplating what he might have done differently, torturing himself with the possibilities of ‘what ifs’. The plot is further complicated as the National Transportation Safety Board investigate the legitimacy of Sully’s conviction that the plane would not have been able to turn around to Teterboro airport, before crashing ontop on civilian neighbourhoods.

The story is delivered in the same format as news media presented it at the time, providing an inspirational example of leadership. As Sully and co-captain Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) are interrogated and somewhat blamed by the Transportation Boards Investigation, the audience is given an insight into what occurred that cold January 15th, 2009. Sully begins to develop PTSD hallucinations among the various media reports, he further questions if he indeed is a hero. After a somewhat prolonged sequence of misplaced flashbacks, the audience is provided with the full crash and rescue sequence which provides the climax of the film. It is here that the protagonist shines as a hero as he tireless works to evacuate the aircraft. Further images of the crash are provided through simulations and flashbacks during the inquiry hearing; which is later discovered duplicitous as officials fail to convict Sully for wrongdoing to cover their own faults in the accident.Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.

Video: Coast Guard Crash and Rescue

Laura Linney plays Sully’s absent wife, who continually makes fraught phone calls to the heroic pilot, however never appears to be face-to-face with her husband during the weeks ensuing the crash. The relationship between Linney and Hanks is merely a distraction from more significant questions, such as, the severe design fault in modern aircraft that mean a flock of geese can bring down a plane and with-it hundreds of lives. While important questions such as design or mechanical/ engineering faults are ignored, the resolution of the film sees Sully hailed a hero when the inquest simulates the flight’s inability to turn around to land at the nearest airport. The film concludes with the real Sullenberger and passengers/ crew of flight US1549 reuniting over the fateful event that they will never forget. Hear Sully’s mayday call to Air Traffic Control here.


Featured Image by USCG Press on Flickr