The world’s love of Chesley Sullenberger was immediate and unquestioned. We took a collective step back and stared, mouths agape, as his heroic moment played out on TVs around the world. There was something about this man with the puffy, white hair that invited adoration and hero worship, possibly because he was so embarrassed by it.
But what if Chesley Sullenberger was wrong?
What if landing that Airbus A320 on the Hudson back it 2009 actually risked the lives onboard, as opposed to saving them? In fact, several flight simulations have shown that the plane COULD have made it back to the airport that day.
So what if everything we’ve ever thought about Sully was wrong?
Sullenberger addressed these questions in his memoir Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters, which Sully the movie is based on. He’s transparent about the inquiry he faced after the plane went down and the doubts even he had about his decision that day.
Tom Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger, but the real star of Sully is the crash itself. Director Clint Eastwood smartly places it right in the middle of the film because it upstages everything else. He adds no dramatic music or camera angles, because this part of the story needs no embellishment. It also makes the crash feel so unbearably REAL, you’ll be bracing along with the passengers. There was even a moment when I thought, “There’s no way people would’ve survived this.” Then I remembered that this was a true story, and that they HAD.
The rest of Sully is not as taut, and there are obvious moments of padding to get to it’s lean 88 minutes. Sully’s wife (played by Laura Linney) appears to be repeating herself in multiple phone calls to him and we have to sit through far more flight simulations than necessary. Tom Hanks does a nice job and accurately depicts Sully’s anxiety after the crash. He never quite conveys that Sullenberger sparkle though, which had the world clamoring to bear-hug him 7 years ago.
I still fully enjoyed Sully though, and even appreciated the inquiry behind the Miracle on the Hudson. I’m also pretty darn impressed by Clint Eastwood’s ability to turn out a great picture at a spry 86-years-old! –B+
(For Parents: Sully is rated PG-13 and contains some foul language, including one f-bomb. There are also some understandably tense moments during the plane crash, but very little blood or injuries depicted afterwards. Sully would be best enjoyed by kids who are already familiar with the story and had maybe even seen pictures of the real Chesley Sullenberger. It’s worth sharing with your children to show them true acts of everyday heroism, as Sully is not the only hero depicted in this movie. There’s also a great message, that even the IMPOSSIBLE becomes possible when everyone works together. Postscript: I took my 9 and 12-year-old daughters to see Sully last night and they absolutely LOVED it. They were even engaged during the crash inquiry, which is the slowest part of the film. The 9-year-old did get a bit weepy during the crash segment, but claimed it was just allergies when her sister started picking on her. I loved sharing this story with my girls, and I enjoyed Sully just as much the second time!)