Review: Hanks navigates playing heroic ‘Sully’

By Meg Murry


Seven years ago, on Jan. 15, 2009, on a bitter New York afternoon, an emergency water landing turned itself into a miracle.

Following multiple bird strikes and losing thrust in both engines, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, saving all 155 souls, both passengers, and crew, on board. It was a cinematic act of heroism, of 208 seconds, mid-flight.
Tom Hanks stars as Sully, the kind of good-hearted leading man he was born to play. He perfectly captures the real captain’s calm, reserved persona. The film gives you no reason to question his actions, but it does introduce three investigators who look to do so for you.

Hanks plays the identifying role with an immediate dignity only his level of onscreen reparatur can bring to the table; his authority lends an air of poise and ease to the leading character, who questions whether or not he made the right decision.

At first, director Clint Eastwood resists showing his audience what happened and instead takes a nonlinear approach, beginning with Sully already at the heart of an active National Transportation Safety Board investigation, and then periodically flashing back to the beginning of Jan. 15, when the “Miracle on the Hudson” occurred.

Alongside Hanks’ second, First Officer Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), Sully endures questions from a committee of three (Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn and Jamey Sheridan) looking to find someone culpable for the “crash.”

The audience hears the details of what happened from the pilot, but also how the flight computer contains evidence that doesn’t corroborate Sully’s earlier statements. At the same time, throughout the investigation in New York, Sully expresses his doubts via phone conversations back home to his wife Lorrie (Laura Linney).

Ultimately, when the NTSB investigation meets to decide the fate of both Sully and Skiles, both make their final stand on what they feel the committee is truly missing as a whole.

If you take the word of computerized simulation flights, you not only take all humanity out of the cockpit but of the flight altogether. As both professionals state, Flight 1549 was not some “computer game.” It boiled down to two choices in 208 seconds: life or death.

The investigation reaches a close, Sully and Skiles were cleared to fly again, with the NTSB’s gratitude. Sully was dubbed as a hero although Sully maintained throughout his story, “I am no hero, just a pilot doing his job.”
Like the landing itself, the film is fleeting yet an effective reminder that miracles don’t just happen on the big screen at the movies.
In reality, no one tried to burn Sully under the microscope. The real investigative committee was just doing their jobs, with their questioning ending quick and precise. But it’s occasionally entertaining to watch both Sully and Skiles put them in their places, especially when they butt heads with the leader of the investigation, Charles Porter (O’Malley), who seemed to be having fun sinking his front teeth into the role of lead investigator.

Ultimately, though, Sully is too good of a guy to make you worry he has any enemies who could possibly take him down while trying to strip him of his wings. Be glad he got to keep his wings, too. Why?


He landed on the Hudson River! How could you not want a captain like that, piloting you home?


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