A movie about more than The Miracle on the Hudson – it’s a movie reminding us how important our humanity is.
“No one warned us. No one said, ‘you are going to lose both engines at a lower altitude than any jet in history.’ No one has ever trained for an incident like that.”
It was a big story in 2009: American pilot Chesley Sullenberger, and his crew, gliding an airbus onto the Hudson River. 155 souls were on board (that number includes the crew).
No one died.
A little more than seven years later, Sully comes to the big screen. Tom Hanks plays the eponymous hero, while Aaron Eckhart takes on the role of First Officer Jeff Skiles.
What I really liked about this was I thought I’d be getting a mundane play-by-play of what happened leading up to and during the crash – maybe a few things after. That had me going into the theatre feeling anxious about what I was going to watch. Fortunately, my concerns were abated.
Director Clint Eastwood has taken the basics of the story, and is using them to remind us of everything that people feel after something massive like this. The audience does see and hear about what happened (based on recordings, witness testimonies, etc.), but they also get a glimpse into what happens to both Sully and Skiles once the thank yous die down, and people look for someone to hold accountable. You can’t land a plane the way they did, live to tell about it, and not be emotionally affected immediately after.
As the audience gets a handle on what happened, Sully and Skiles must deal with the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency, the NTSB, and others who seem to be eager to lay blame. And while most of us familiar with the story know what the culprits were (for those of you who don’t know, the culprits were Canadian geese – or just “birds” as we hear a handful of times in the film), it isn’t good enough for the suits who believe the pair didn’t have to land on the Hudson River (or, as one official puts it, “crash in the Hudson River”). Everyone’s certain Sully could have made it to an airport runway. Our pilot and co-pilot both deal with a major case of doubt while the investigations are underway, and it’s hard not to feel for them as the story unfolds.
Eckhart and Hanks were brilliant. I have a few stand-out parts (the last line of the movie is one of my favourites), but these two really do shine. I would be surprised if Eckhart was not nominated for any awards in this role; this is probably some of the best acting he’s done. I feel like Hanks is on his way to a spate of accolades for this film. Is it reminiscent of Philadelphia or Forrest Gump? Tough to say; it’d be like comparing apples to oranges. I felt he had a lot of respect for Sully in this film, and the way he portrays the real life pilot’s cool, calm demeanour is exceptional.
I will say this isn’t a movie for everyone. The investigations aren’t anything like the court scenes in A Few Good Men or 12 Angry Men. It’s a simple film, telling a simple story. What Eastwood and everyone else here has done is take a simple, miraculous story – and make it into a conversational piece. Outstanding.
5 safe landings out of 5.