People often forget that when their riding an airplane (specifically, a commercial airliner), their sitting on top of a major carrier of fuel that it were to crash, would likely explode. This shouldn’t discourage people from flying as such a profession requires finding everything that could go wrong and making sure nothing can happen. Aside from terrorists that have tragically used them as weapons, most plane crashes tend to be mechanical. Engineers before the takeoff can find most of these glitches. In the case of something going wrong in the air, most planes can simply head back to their original airport and try to land at a nearby one.
If all of the above is available, then the people on the plane better hope that the pilot can find a place to land. Though these things rarely happen, most of these forced landings or crashes tend to end badly. Though there is the occasional miracle.
In 2009, a US Airways plane was forced to make a water landing when their engine was struck by birds. Not only did the plane land alright, but Captain Chesley Sullenberger managed to save everyone on board. The story of that crash and the aftermath are the subject of Sully.
As history is recreated, we see Captain Chesley Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) and his first Officer Jeffrey Skiles (played by Aaron Eckhart) getting ready to depart from LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, North Carolina. For Sully, this is just another routine flight in his thirty years of flying experience. He’s discussed retirement soon so that he can spend more time with his wife Lorraine (played by Laura Linney) and his two daughters. Just as his flight is ascending, both engines are struck by a flock of birds, rendering them broken with the plane unable to restart them.
He makes the decision to water land after deciding that trying to get back to LaGuardia or another airport was not doable. Though the crew and passengers are frightened, Sully manages to get them all out safely. Sully is seen as a hero by the press and get’s several bookings to talk about it from Katie Couric to David Lettermen. Though suffering posttraumatic stress and experiencing nightmares, he seems to be pulling through. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether Sully had made the right call and even holds a large meeting to determine whether his decision was correct or he should give up his wings (doing so would prevent retirement pension).
Sully sounds straightforward and it pretty much is the kind of reenactment one would expect. Given the Hollywood budget, they manage give us a pretty good sequence of the plane landing in the water and the rescue of the people. Though a good part of the movie is about that crash, the real focus of the story is surrounding Sully’s aftermath and the investigation he was under. With the “Miracle on the Hudson” story surrounding the press, I had no idea that Sully was questioned about his actions.
Director Clint Eastwood brings the same dark style that he brought to Gran Torino and Jersey Boys and I think he finally understands that too much of it makes the experience unpleasant. The story is short at only an hour and a half, but it’s the right length. Though it’s story is good, the editing is very odd. There are several moments where it chooses to sporadically cut to Sully’s youth or of the crash. Some are short, but some are very long, which makes you question just what the intention of the flow was. I think this would have been better had it been shown straightforward without the time jumps.
I’ll give this four airline captains hats out of five. In the end, I was glad that I saw this miracle on the Hudson story to life. While not necessarily a strong commentary about the airline industry nor a dive into captain psyche, Sully is an engaging story about one man’s decision. Plus with Tom Hanks, you know you’re gonna get a good performance. I’d say check it out if you heard about the story and wanted to know more. Board on and hope for the best.