By Bradley Griffith
Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood. You couldn’t ask for a better team to make a movie. Eastwood is the vision behind the film and Hanks brings that vision to life. These two Hollywood legends combined to produce the powerful and compelling “Sully.”
You may think you know the story, but you don’t know the whole story. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) is a decorated pilot. He has spent his entire life in the cockpit. Over the course of 42 years he has flown everything from prop planes to fighter jets. He is the calmest, most professional pilot you could ask for.
On January 15, 2009 Sully is the pilot for US Airways flight 1549 from LaGuardia Airport headed for Charlotte, North Carolina. First Officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) is the co-pilot on the Airbus A320 plane that has 155 people on board, including the crew. Within minutes of liftoff disaster strikes.
The plane is hit by a flock of Canadian Geese. The birds are sucked into each engine and Sully quickly declares that both engines are destroyed. They are at an altitude of only 2,800 feet. The plane is losing altitude and thrust. Sully knows that he can’t make it back to LaGuardia or any other nearby airport. He knows this based on 42 years of experience in the air.
The plane is going down over New York City. Sully’s options are to try to make it back to LaGuardia, which he believes is impossible, crash into the city, or attempt a water landing on the Hudson River. Sully chooses the Hudson and pulls off one of the greatest feats in aviation history. He lands the plane on the water and all 155 souls on board the plane not only survive, but only a few have minor injuries.
The behind-the-scenes story starts after the miraculous water landing. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board tell Sully that computer simulations show that the left engine still had thrust and that the plane may have been able to make it back to LaGuardia. Sully realizes the NTSB is trying to blame the whole incident on human error, on him.
What can possibly be said about Tom Hanks that hasn’t already been said before? He is amazing in his portrayal of a real hero. But the fact that he is an amazing actor has been said about Hanks many times. Maybe the best way to describe his performance in “Sully” is to say that only Tom Hanks could have done this role. No one else could have brought the quiet dignity of Chesley Sullenberger to life in the same way, and it was a pleasure to watch.
As if Tom Hanks’ star power isn’t enough, “Sully” was produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. More so than many of the modern filmmakers, Eastwood knows how to tell a story. I’m not usually a fan of movies told through flashbacks because it can be confusing. But Eastwood weaves the flashbacks to the crash seamlessly with the pressure on Sully after the accident in a way that makes you understand his state of mind and feel the same way. It’s brilliant.
More than anything else, “Sully” is a story about real heroes. Not just Sully, but Jeff Skiles, the flight attendants, and all of the rescue workers who came to the aid of the passengers. New York City in January is not chilly, it’s downright freezing. In what is considered by many to be the most cynical city in the world, rescue workers from ferry boats and their crews to NYPD scuba teams arrived on the scene a mere 24 minutes after the plane landed on the Hudson to pluck the passengers from the plane before it sank.
“Sully” is powerful and dramatic filmmaking. It’s a great story about a miraculous event and is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Rated PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language.