On Thursday, January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the "Miracle on the Hudson" when pilot Chesley"Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all one hundred fifty-five aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.Written by
In Sully's flashback to flying a biplane as a teenager, a Civil Air Patrol sign (red prop on a blue background) is clearly visible on an airport building. The Civil Air Patrol was responsible for courier duty and Coastal Patrol missions, amongst other tasks, during World War II. Today, they are responsible for all inland Search and Rescue operations in the United States, and they operate one of the largest fleets of aircraft in the world. See more »
The NYPD helicopter in the movie is a Bell model 205, a civilian version of the UH-1D/H Huey flown in Vietnam. This version has one gas turbine engine and two main rotor blades. In actuality, as seen during the end credits, the NYPD helicopter used in the rescue was a Bell model 214. This aircraft is equipped with twin gas turbine engines and four main rotor blades. See more »
Bartender - Pete:
[Sully walks into a pub and sits at the bar]
Hey, is that you? Are you the pilot, Sully? that is you, right?
Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger:
Bartender - Pete:
Hey, it's a pleasure to meet you. That was unreal what you did the other day, that was really something. It's a real pleasure to meet you. You know, we invented a drink after you as soon as that happened, ain't that right, Johnny?
Johnny - Drunk Customer:
Yeah, yeah, you did.
Bartender - Pete:
The Sully: It's a shot of Grey Goose with a splash of water.
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Photos of the real plane and rescue are shown during the credits. They are followed by a brief video with real people from that day including the passengers and Captain Sullenburger. See more »
The film's IMAX release presented the film open-matte, at an aspect ratio of 1.90:1, meaning there was more picture information visible in the top and bottom of the frame than in normal theaters and on home video. See more »
Likable film about an admirable man, but the material was better suited for a documentary...
"On January 15, 2009. More than 1.200 first responders and 7 ferry boats carrying 130 commuters rescued the passengers and crew of flight 1349.
The best of New York came together. It took them 24 minutes"
Surely an inspiring conclusion, but I admit my immediate reaction was "who are you kidding?". I'm not cynically negating the fact that the 155 passengers of the fateful flight were rescued by competent and dedicated New Yorkers, but it's Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger aka Sully who definitely saved them. And that's why he's got the lion-share of praises, that's why he got the film.
I worked in an airline company for more than three years, this film is about January 15, 2009 but I mostly remember June 1 of the same year. It was the day I started working and when -in a tragic irony- the Airbus flight from Rio to Paris crashed. My immersion into the flight world coincided with that event and for some metaphysical reason, I read every single article about that crash, which -according to the investigation- was tragic because avoidable. Basically, if it wasn't for the pilot letting the co-pilot in command, for the co-pilot taking the wrong indications, for several "if" factors, two hundreds of people wouldn't have perished in one of Airbus' deadliest accidents.
But "Sully" made me relativize all these computer-generated inquiries that end up pointing a posthumous accusation against the pilots. Indeed, it doesn't take a NTSB expert to know that accidents are the result of equations featuring many parameters among them human factor, there's never one sole cause of accident. This is why planes are still statistically the safest travelling ways, and this is why it doesn't say much about how stressful a flight plane is. This is why, on a personal note, I think my last hour is coming whenever turbulences start. This is why I take my chances with buses, boats and cars. Hell, this is why people still applaud the pilot when he lands.
Why should they? Isn't it part of their job? In the short documentary-feature about Sully, he reminds us that pilots have to fly well every time, it's a job that doesn't allow one hazardous move or uncertainty. I worked in the freight business where everything was processed and pre-planned from A to Z, freight isn't living people, but lives are always at stakes during a flight. That's why pilot is an ace job, when you have hundreds of lives depending on you every day, you can't afford a mistake... but as Sully also says this time in the film "everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time".
Clint Eastwood shows us a man confronted to such situation with only 208 seconds to react. In what should have been a routine flight, birds are sucked into the two engines making both unusable, and the only solution is an emergency landing on the closest runway. The altitude is low, he can't reach an airport without flying over New York City and he's got less than a minute to make up his mind. Of course, there's not much suspense since we know he made the right choice by landing on the Hudson river. But suspense isn't Eastwood's concern, he doesn't care about the 208 seconds but the 24 minutes.
Indeed, after his "Invictus" and "American Sniper" and before the "15:17 to Paris" Eastwood seemed to have grown a cinematic fondness on real-life heroes. I guess it's a generational appreciation of men who were capable of taking the right decision at the right time and inspire the best out of the people. Mandela in "Invictus" took unpopular decisions that eventually united South-Africans. Chris Kyle might have been blinded by his patriotism but became an inspiration to his companions. Sully is made in the same Eastwoodian vein, he wouldn't call himself a hero, but don't ever tell him he made the wrong decision.
The problem with "Sully" though is that the film takes a situation of a few minutes and needlessly stretches it for the sake of cinematic viability. In a non-linear narrative, it switches back and forth between moments where he's hailed as a hero and where he's criticized by the NTSBC investigation. Moments where he seems to go through a PTSD phase and moments where he reminisces about his past. The investigation is perhaps the best part of the film and it makes everything else feel as "fillers", Laura Linney is not being given the most grateful role of her career as the long-suffering wife and the film could have done without Katie Couric calling Sully a fraud in an imagination sequence. Why would he be a fraud if he never pretended to be a hero?
The not-so subtle point of Eastwood is betrayed by that "best of New York" disclaimer. The film opens with a nightmarish vision of "what could have been" had Sully followed the instructions by the book instead of his precious instinct and it ends with a needlessly graphic recreation of September 11. Maybe the opening and ending elevate Sully as a heroic figure because he could inspire the best of New York like the terrorist attacks did, but by saving lives instead. An Egyptian taxi driver praises him for having restored his faith in humanity in a year that started with the crisis, Madoff and Middle-East wars. It wasn't just the perfect timing but the perfect time.
Now, I enjoy a good inspirational film like anyone but I can't say the film captivated me as "Invictus" did or elicited a reaction as strong as "American Sniper" (even though it was a negative one). The film struck me as a poor man's "Apollo 13" or a film Steven Spielberg could have made between two blockbusters. I liked it for its informative value but I enjoyed the real smiling Sully more than Hanks' grim all-serious performance... so maybe the story was better suited for a documentary?
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