The “Miracle on the Hudson,” in which airline captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his plane on New York City’s Hudson River after it was struck by birds, was one of those moments that was ripe to be made into a movie.
Seven years after the US Airways plane landed into the icy river in January 2009, that movie is here. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, it is a moving account that shows the event in dramatic detail and explores the frustrating investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board that Sullenberger had to endure following the landing.
Eastwood’s directing talent has always been minimising the stylistic bells and whistles that directors like to use as calling cards in their films and just telling a good story. He’s an anti-auteur in an era when every director (both established and up-and-coming) feels he or she has to flash those calling cards.
Though “Sully” is thrilling on an IMAX screen, Eastwood doesn’t try to show off the technology with an overindulgence of CGI. He turns to the script by Todd Komarnicki, which is based on Sullenberger’s book “Highest Duty,” and the talents of Hanks.
Hanks proves once more that he’s the Jimmy Stewart of our generation. It’s hard to think of anyone else working today other than Hanks who could bring to the screen the professionalism, humility, and class that a veteran pilot who has built a career cheating death like Sullenberger exudes.
But as most of the movie explores, Sullenberger was crippled in the hours and days following the landing with second-guessing.
It mainly comes from the NTSB investigators who question his actions, as computer simulations show that he could have gotten the plane back to LaGuardia Airport (later in the movie that theory is debunked).
This leads to Sullenberger having flashbacks to the landing and two horrific moments when he imagines the plane crashing into a Manhattan high-rise. It will be a cringe-inducing moment for those who still get flashbacks to the attacks on New York City on 9/11.
But the movie doesn’t primarily find its emotion from sadness. Instead, it’s uplifting and inspiring as Hanks, Aaron Eckhart (as Sullenberger’s copilot), and the rest of the cast playing the flight crew are portrayed as the heroes they are.
At a brisk 95 minutes, there’s a lot packed into the movie with few dull moments (if any). Hanks is the film’s glue, and should be considered for the award season. But Eastwood’s storytelling with little use of music is a testament to how powerful the drama in the movie is on its own.
With over 30 feature-film directing credits, Eastwood hasn’t always made the right choices, but “Sully” and his previous directing effort, “American Sniper,” show that the 86-year-old is in a good directing groove at the moment.
“Sully” opens in theatres on Friday.