On January 15, 2009, we all watched the drama unfold as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger miraculously landed US Airway Flight 1549 on the Hudson River.
After the plane was struck by a flock of geese that destroyed the engines, Sully instinctively determined that there were too many obstacles in the way (buildings, bridges) to return to LaGuardia or Teterboro Airports. All of the 155 passengers and crew members were saved as a result of his actions and in their eyes, as well as in the eyes of the public and the media, Sully was a genuine hero.
However, on behalf of the Airline and its insurers ($$$), a Federal Committee of bureaucrats with little understanding of what goes on in the cockpit, grilled Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles for days, with intent on proving that Sully’s judgment was wrong, regardless of his safe-landing of the Jet. If found at fault in the incident, Sully would be forced to retire and would lose his pension; his career and his reputation ruined.
Shown on an Imax Screen, the historical landing of the plane on the Hudson River was tantamount to actually being there along with the passengers and crew; terrified, adrenalized, freezing, yet with disciplined calmness and order. But that’s not what this movie was about.
Directed brilliantly by Clint Eastwood, with Tom Hanks believably morphing into the real Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart his committed co-pilot Jeff Skiles, this movie takes us behind the scenes where we see the emotional impact this harrowing ordeal had on Sully – his vivid, horrifying post-traumatic stress visions of “what could have been” had he followed the guidebook (plane crashing into buildings and bridges reminiscent of 9/11 scenes).
Flashbacks show Sully’s expert training as a young pilot in the Air Force. We get a glimpse into his personal life with his very worried wife (Laura Linney) seeing her husband being hailed a hero as she watches the breaking news on television.
And we see the courageous, confident, highly-skilled pilot, after 40 years of flying, for the first time in his career, doubt himself.
Ultimately, under questioning, Sully demonstrates to the panel members that it was they who had it wrong – the simulated technical models they manipulated to achieve the results they wanted, didn’t leave time for “the human factor”.
I loved every moment of this movie, even though I knew the ending. Mixing fact with bio-pic brought me back to that day in history when the air temperature was 20°F (−7°C) and the water temperature 36°F (2°C), and all over again, I marveled at the way all the first responders worked together to divert a major disaster. (Fourteen harbor vessels rendered aid. New York and New Jersey police, firefighters, helicopters, divers and emergency medical crews were on the scene.)
Most of all, I respected and was awed by the, clear-thinking, soft-spoken heroism of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.
Tom Hanks – Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger
Aaron Eckhart – Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles
Laura Linney – Lorraine Sullenberger (wife)
Mike O’Malley – head of Committee to discredit Sully
Clint Eastwood – Director
Todd Komarnicki – Screenplay Writer
Based on book “Highest Duty” by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow.