Sully

Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan, and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles. The film follows Sullenberger’s January 2009 emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, in which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries, and the subsequent publicity and investigation.

The film follows the investigation into the events of January 15, 2009, when three minutes into a domestic flight from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport at an approximate altitude of 2,800 feet (approx. 850 m), the Airbus A320 strikes a flock of birds, disabling both engines.  As US Airways pilots Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles check and see that without engine power and judging themselves unable to reach nearby airports, Sully decides to ditch the aircraft on the Hudson River. He manages to land in the Hudson and the crew evacuates all passengers without casualty. He calls his wife and lets her know what has happened. The press and public hail Sullenburger as a hero, but the incident leaves Sullenburger with symptoms of PTSD shortly afterwards, and he repeatedly imagines the plane crashing into a building.

Afterwards, Sully learns that preliminary data from ACARS suggest that the port engine was still running at idle power. Theoretically, this would have left him with enough power to return to LaGuardia or land at Teterboro. Furthermore, the board of inquiry claims that several confidential computerized simulations of the flight have concluded that the plane could have been landed safely at either airport with no power from either engine. Sully, however, insists that he lost both engines, which left him without sufficient time, speed, or altitude to land safely at any airport. He realizes that the NTSB is leaning towards considering the cause of the accident as “pilot error” and that would mean the end of his career. To save his reputation he arranges to have the simulations rerun with live pilots, and the results are relayed to the public hearing. Both simulations result in successful landings, one at each airport. At the hearing Sully tells that the simulations are unrealistic because the pilots knew in advance of the situation they would face and of the suggested emergency action, and had also been able to practice the scenario several times. The board accepts that in real life the pilots would have taken some time to react, and run their emergency checks, before deciding to divert the plane.

The two simulations are re-run and relayed to the hearing, this time allowing a 35-second pause before the plane is diverted. The simulated diversion to LaGuardia ends with the plane landing onto the lead-in lights short of the runway, and to Teterboro with a crash into buildings before the airport. The board also announces that analysis of the port engine, now recovered from the river, confirms Sully’s account that it had been put out of action by the bird strikes. They therefore conclude that Sully acted correctly in selecting the best of the options available to him, which in the event had saved the lives of everyone aboard. At the end of the hearing First Officer Skiles is asked whether he would have done anything differently, and he replies: “Yes, I would have done it in July.” to much laughter.

Exceptional well done and directed and ofcourse well acted by the cast with Hanks at the helm. He does it with the least amount of drama and brings a rich sincerity to the role. It’s a sedate yet very interesting and involving film. I give it 8.5 outta 10!

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