On January 15, 2009, flight 1549 from Laguardia Airport in New York to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina was hit by a flock of birds midair, causing a double engine fail. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger was forced to land the plane carrying 155 people into the frigid water of the Hudson River. Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, depicts not only the crash itself but the aftermath of the crash. Eastwood analyzes the perspective of Captain Sully as he managed constant accolades of heroism from the press while facing a controversial investigation.
Yet again audiences are unable to resist the draw of Tom Hanks’ recreation of a hero with great inner turmoil. His depiction of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger had audiences on the edge of their seats for the hour and a half running time. Hanks, with the help a good score, does a wonderful job at developing the character without much dialogue. He provides a nuanced perspective of what Captain Sully faced in the aftermath: post traumatic stress from the accident as well as guilt and doubt about whether his seemingly heroic landing on the Hudson River was actually the best option.
However, the movie does not just rely on Hanks’ wonderful acting.The story is presented in a way that makes it interesting without being too predictable. Specific details that might seem random in the moment provide a well-rounded understanding of everything that was going on, from the communication in the control tower in the moments before the crash, to the call the Coast Guard received, to Sully’s daily jogs. The movie’s idiosyncrasy lies in those moments and how they are not laid out in chronological order, however are spread out sporadically. Audiences don’t see the crash, the investigation, or the heat of the press all at once. The compilation of the clips creates an arc yet decreases the overwhelming feeling of heartbreak during certain chapters of the story. If audiences are heartbroken because of the scene following the crash, any scenes ensuing that have pivotal roles in telling the story are overshadowed. Because of the seriousness of the event, these breaks are crucial to portraying the incident accurately.
Though the movie is strong in many departments, such as character development and effectively expressing the plot, there are specific aspects of the movie, such as perspective, that were not well addressed. There is a very blatant hero versus villain complex, making the movie come across as the classic cookie-cutter Hollywood film. The investigators of the case are antagonized and transformed into the force playing against Sully instead of playing the role of defending the public. The forced landing put a lot of lives at risk. In most circumstances, not all of the passengers in water landings survive, making Sully’s decision seem rash when there might have been a lower risk alternative. In the hearing, the risk of what he did is denied because in the end everybody was okay, however the storyline still does not acknowledge that the government investigators are not trying to discredit Sully, they are only doing their job.
Sully, though very close to perfection, did include the classic Hollywood oversimplification of mechanical details and perspective. To its credit, the film provoked audiences to consider the value of acknowledging the existence of human error.