It was a cold morning in January 2009 as US Airways Flight 1549 prepared for takeoff. The flight was scheduled to travel from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte, N.C. A seemingly normal morning for Capt. Chesley Sullenberger was about to turn into something that was anything but ordinary. Once airborne, the plane encountered a flock of birds and both engines lost thrust. What happened next is a story that is nothing short of miraculous, hence the nickname it was given: the “miracle on the Hudson.” But few know the story of the aftermath of the water landing. Sully, from director Clint Eastwood, shares that tale with us.
After the amazing events that took place on the Hudson River, many quickly started calling Capt. Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) a hero. Sully did what no one had done before: completed a water landing that saw all passengers and crew survive.
The media loved the story — the story from the passengers of the historic flight as they glowed about Sully and his crew, and the story from the crew who also glowed about their pilot. Everyone was enamored with Sully. But not everything was backslaps and high-fives for the captain. The NTSB looked to answer a major question: Was the Hudson River the necessary place to put the plane down, or could Sully have landed safely at a nearby airport? But could those hearings really call into question the decision of the man who was branded a hero already?
Told from the point of view of Sullenberger, the film is based on his book Highest Duty, and presents a man who is confident and commanding. Yet at the same time, Sully seems to be just like the man next door. Hanks is perfectly cast to bring that calming nature to a series of events that would lead most to crumble. In his portrayal of the captain, he is stoic, steadfast and a true leader in the face of adversity.
The amazing Aaron Eckhart brings copilot Jeff Skiles to life, and Laura Linney portrays Sully’s wife Lorrie. These two talented actors create the backbone for the film. They support Sully and he cares dearly about them.
At a tight 95 minutes in length, the film moves swiftly and is constantly engaging. The way Eastwood has cut together the memories of what actually happened, the fears of what could have happened and the simulations of that fateful event creates an atmosphere of hope. A hope that the world is full of more individuals who are like Sully. More individuals who just do their jobs, but know that whatever their job is, it’s important.
Sully was quickly branded a hero after that fateful morning. He was someone who prepared and studied so that when the situation faced him down, he was ready. In this film that tells his story, I feel privileged to have been able to take in his journey. As we see, nothing is perfect — including Sully’s life — but we can all learn how to be calm in the face of adversity. Make sure your seat back and tray tables are up, and prepare for inspiration.
Sully is available On Demand beginning Dec. 20. Check your cable system for availability.