On January 15, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 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.
The movie is based on the real incident of Captain Sully landing the US Airways flight on the Hudson river and saving the lives of all 155 aboard. But the depiction of the subsequent investigation as some kind of witch hunt is totally made up. While it makes for an interesting movie it is not the truth unfortunately.
“Sully is, in theory, based on Sullenberger’s 2009 memoir Highest Duty (co-authored with Jeffrey Zaslow). “Until I read the script, I didn’t know the investigative board was trying to paint the picture that he had done the wrong thing. They were kind of railroading him,” says Eastwood in one promotional trailer. It’s not surprising Eastwood was ignorant of any railroading by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), since it’s a narrative absent from Highest Duty, or anything actually said or written by the NTSB.
In fact, in his memoir, Sullenberger reflects that he was “buoyed by the fact that investigators determined that Jeff and I made appropriate choices at every step”. When he and Skiles were invited to the cockpit voice recorder playback, Sullenberger notes the investigators were eager for the opportunity to hear the pilots’ thoughts. As he describes, the playback happened four months after the flight in a room with six people. Yet in Sully the playback occurs days after the flight before a packed kangaroo court. The exhausted pilots are hounded by ankle-biting bureaucrats, and presented with incriminating simulations that show test pilots easily making runway landings.
In reality, investigators first asked simulator pilots to attempt airport landings immediately after engine loss to establish the bounds of practicality. Notably, even with the benefit of perfect hindsight, barely half of these optimal test runs made it back. And then the investigators – not Sullenberger – asked a pilot to wait 35 seconds before attempting an airport return. That flight didn’t make it. Consequently, the NTSB was unequivocal in its declaration that the Hudson was the right call.” Link
Tom Hanks is excellent as Captain Sullenberger. Aaron Eckhart is very good as Sully’s co-pilot, Jeff Skiles. Laura Linney totally overacts in her few scenes and is very annoying as Sully’s wife.
Clint Eastwood’s direction is good for most of the movie except for the scenes with the wife. Since the actual flight time was only 206 seconds the movie obviously had to invent the whole witch hunt kind of story to make it interesting. The movie is good if one can view it as fictional story. The only thing bad or annoying about the movie are the scenes with the wife which looked forced and unnecessary.
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