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Written by: Todd Komarnicki (screenplay), Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow (book)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
My rating is simple, Watch It, It Depends, Skip it. Read my previous movie reviews!
Based on the true story, pilot 'Sully' Sullenberger became a hero after landing a plane with two blown engines on the Hudson River, saving all passengers and crew.
A great script that knows exactly what to do and when. It focuses on the event and the Captain, Sully, without getting bogged down. It's intense, heartfelt, and vindicates Sully from the suits that weren't there, that think you can simulate a life or death situation. It's an incredible movie that hits the right notes.
The plotting and timing in this movie are absolutely perfect as events unfold. The writer picks a great place to start this movie. Sully (Tom Hanks) is having a nightmare about a plane crash ahead of Sully and Skile's (Aaron Eckhart) interview with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) about their "landing." These investigators are telling Sully what he could have done and he simply tells them they weren't there. While they refer to the Hudson bay landing as a crash, Sully is adamant that it was a landing.
While Sully wonders if he made the right decision and if there were any other options, he knows he did. Sully becomes a hero, though he'd rather remain unknown. The NTSB relies on computer data, determining that Sully could have made it to a runway. They want to blame him, but the thing is there was a man in the cockpit, not a computer.
The movie puts us on Sully's side and previews the NTSB's argument against him before showing us what really happened. We've seen how it could have gone wrong from the first scene, we've been told it shouldn't have gone wrong at all, and then we see what actually happened. It's fantastic plotting, making a great movie even better. We see what happened and are completely on Sully's side.
We know what happens on the flight, but it's still intense. The build up is perfect and the air traffic controller states people don't survive water landings. We know everyone survived, but still this sets a mood.
Eastwood likes a certain type of movie. He goes for the American hero type, and this movie really knocks it out of the park. This movie is riveting. Sully defied all expectations and became a hero, but now the NTSB wants to make him a scapegoat. Sully stands his ground, refusing to back down despite their 'data.'
Ahead of the formal hearing, Sully demands a flight simulation with human pilots. He hopes the simulation proves he made the right decision. The simulation shows that Sully could have made it, but Sully's response is amazing and completely plausible. In the simulation the pilots knew exactly what to do after the bird strike. Hanks delivers a great monologue before asking how many practice runs the pilots had in the simulation. It took seventeen practice runs before the pilots landed safety and that's when they knew what was going to happen. Seventeen! Sully saved everyone on the first try in a situation that had real consequences. You can't train or practice for disaster. I thought the actual crash was the pinnacle of intensity in this movie but the simulation is just as intense.
Sully knew he was right and refused to give up. I have to wonder if the NTSB was really this obtuse or if their hostility was just for the movie. Did they want to blame him so bad that they refused to believe he may have made the right decision? From the start they believe Sully is guilty of making a mistake instead of acknowledging he saved everyone. In the same hearing, we hear the cabin recording and see the crash again. It's just as intense. After the recording, Sully turns to Skiles stating, "We did our job." Finally Sully is vindicated. He made the only decision that would have saved everyone.
Sully doesn't get a lot of lines, but we get a sense of his character. He was calm and focused during the incident. He was the last one off the plane and even went back for the flight plan. He's haunted by the idea that he didn't make the right decision, despite no casualties.
The computer data was wrong as Sully testified. While it was the input and failing to provide adequate time to alert and receive orders from the air traffic controller, all too often we rely on perfect scenario computer simulations which are NOT real life. The NTSB had to eat crow and take back all of their accusations.
Of course the credits provide requisite actual photos. If you didn't notice Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) from Entourage is one of the Coast Guard cops.