The story of airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger is quite an extraordinary one. It’s a story made for the big screen and with Clint Eastwood directing and Tom Hanks starring as the American hero, the pair conjure up a fitting adaptation of a quite incredible tale.
On 15th January 2009, US Airlines flight 1549 took off from New York’s LaGuardia airport carrying 155 passengers traveling to Charlotte. Soon after take off, multiple bird strikes caused the plane to lose both engines, leaving captain Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) with little choice but to perform an emergency landing in the Hudson River. Miraculously, Sully managed to safely land the plane, saving everyone on board. He was ultimately dubbed a national hero.
However, there is much more to the story than first anticipated with Sully and his first officer, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), facing arduous questioning from the National Transportation Safety Board, who would investigate the emergency landing and came to a number of agreements that Sully could have in actual fact landed the plane at two different airports. All the while, Sully is having to cope with horrific envisages of what could have happened had he chosen not to land in the Hudson as well as all the media attention he was receiving.
The story is well told by Eastwood and it certainly exposes all of the difficulties that Sully was going through despite being handed this hero’s accolade. Some aspects maybe slightly sketchy – the NTSB are portrayed as some form of antagonist who actively seek to lay blame on Sully whereas the board themselves have openly voiced concerns that that was absolutely not the case.
The movie perhaps doesn’t give Hanks the flexibility to bring out his absolute best like we saw in Captain Phillips for example, but that’s more or less down to the storyline itself.
Nevertheless, with his inevitably solid performance and a workmanlike approach from Eastwood, Sully is a fitting portrayal of one of America’s true modern day heroes. One line from the movie by one of the members of the NTSB sums this miraculous story up perfectly: “That is honestly the first time I have listened to a crash recording whilst sitting with the captain and the first officer”.