Where were you on the January 15, 2009? Hopefully you weren’t on US Airways Flight 1549 that made an emergency water landing on New York’s Hudson River after a flock of geese struck the aircraft, taking out both engines. Piloted by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and Co-Pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) and unable to return to any nearby airport, they saved the lives of 155 passengers and crew by successfully landing their aircraft without any loss of life. While there have been successful ‘dead stick’ landings of aircraft on land, there has never been a water landing of any commercial aircraft, either before or after this historic event.
Sully, a quiet, ex-military pilot with 40 years (make that 42 years) flight experience, became an instant celebrity. Constant news interviews and talk show appearances while an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) regarding what occurred over 208 seconds weighed heavily on Sully and his copilot. Computer simulations painted a different scenario of the events, threatening Sully’s career and reputation. It is this turmoil that the film Sully addresses.
Being a frequent flyer, I found this film to be very disturbing in its haunting re-creation of the actual events surrounding the water landing. Let’s face it: anytime you don’t have a normal landing on an airport runway, it’s a harrowing experience. I hope to never have to experience it in my lifetime. I would have years of sleepless nights and experience nightmares during the day. It is absolutely terrifying.
What I enjoyed about this film is the way in which the material was presented. It’s kind of like a fine steak. Everyone knows what it is and what it costs, but the way in which it is presented at your table makes it more mouthwatering than just a plain steak. Director Clint Eastwood did a wonderful job in bringing that experience to the screen.
Everyone loves a hero, especially with a story behind it that ends in victory versus tragedy. All 155 people (passengers and crew) survived the water landing. Hundreds of rescue workers came to their aid. Each and every one of them is also a hero. No casualities. In fact, this was one of the very few incidents where the NTSB was able to interview the pilot and co-pilot of a major air catastrophe that was avoided. The initial evidence did not support the story of the pilot and copilot. However, after a lengthy examination of all of the evidence: statements, the timeline from the voice cockpit recorders and the recovered engine that sank, etc., validated their decision for a water landing.
While director Clint Eastwood and screenwriter Tom Komarnicki may have taken some liberties and painted the NTSB as “witch hunters,” in order to make the story more dramatic (it’s always good to have a ‘bad guy’), the NTSB is only looking for the cause and truth, which sometimes is more difficult to obtain.
I would recommend this movie to all audiences. It is a timely story, one that happened just a few short years ago. The re-creation of the landing is pretty realistic, as I felt myself being shot forward in my seat upon impact. Imaginary as it is, I still was smart enough, in my mind, to have kept my seatbelt fastened.