World tragedies mark the calendars of our lives. Years can go by, but you still remember where you were when Kennedy was shot or when the first plane hit the World Trade Center or a massacre occurred at a Florida nightclub. These events speak to the nation’s collective unconscious, melding our fears and, sometimes, steeling our strength.
Seldom does good news have the same effect; however, one bright afternoon on Jan. 15, 2009, changed that. Anyone who pays attention to the world beyond their immediate surroundings will remember when US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed on the Hudson River in New York City.
Jet airplanes simply can’t take an onslaught of geese flying directly into the fuselage. The plane plummets like a stone, and that’s exactly the scenario the pilot and first officer faced in the cockpit of flight 1549.
Fortunately, what could have been yet another tragedy turned out to be a celebration of survival. Of the one hundred and fifty-five passengers and crew members, all lived to tell about it. The recently released film “Sully” tells the story.
Veteran actor-turned-director Clint Eastwood’s interpretation of this event offers a meaningful synthesis of circumstances, personalities, and drama. Based on Highest Duty, the book by Captain Chesley Sullenberger, “Sully” not only details the landing, but also takes you behind the scenes of the investigation that followed it.
Tom Hanks’s portray of Sullenberger draws on the actor’s depth and range, communicating the complexities of the pilot’s personality in a way that makes him fully believable. One would not expect anything less of Hanks. Equally fine-tuned is the relationship between Hanks and co-star Aaron Eckhart who portrays First Officer Jeff Skiles, the other pilot in the cockpit with Sullenberger.
With a narrative that laces both dream sequences and flashbacks into present time, the film’s movement creates a fascinating look at the drama with a sense of immediacy, as well as with measured analysis from another perspective. From the moment of the geese attack to the aftermath, and finally to the debate by teams of experts, Sullenberger’s actions are at the forefront.
Sullenberger’s momentous decision to plant the plane in the cold waters of the Hudson, rather than attempt a landing at an area airport, pitted his judgement against computer simulations and analysts who disputed his actions. Is Sullenberger a hero, or a man who jeopardized the lives of 154 other people?
Go see “Sully.” Witness the way humanity, common sense, and skill trump bureaucracy and computer simulations. Stay for the credits because art fuses with reality when the real passengers of U.S. Airways flight 1549, the crew, Captain Sullenberger, and First Officer Skiles celebrate that Hudson River landing.
Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.
Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews for the Empire-Tribune since 1999.