Remember the plane that landed on the Hudson River and all the passengers survived and the pilot became a hero? Of course you do. It’s one of those stories that instantly lodges in the consciousness and sticks in the memory of every sentient human being on the planet who’s ever flown in an aeroplane.
Flying is the ultimate act of human daring. When you think about it, the sheer awesomeness of flying confounds all our mundane biological instincts. Who among us, even the most frequent and jaded of flyers, doesn’t pause for a moment when the big jet starts lumbering down the runway, doesn’t put down book or crossword puzzle or inflight magazine to experience the thrill of take-off, perhaps even the tiniest shiver of fear? Who doesn’t momentarily reflect on their own mortality, on the fact that here we are, about to leave the safety of mother earth and hurtle through the perilous sky in a giant fragile metal tube, trusting that those up front will keep us up there and deliver us safely back to terra firma. And I use that phrase advisedly. Is it not TERRIfying to contemplate how FIRM the earth will be when the fragile metal contraption you’re in crashes into it at breakneck speed?!
No wonder we hold airline pilots in such esteem. An airline pilot in full uniform cuts a dashing, romantic figure, a potentially heroic one even. And no wonder the advance screening of Sully I went to at the State Cinema last Sunday was chocka. People love heroic stories, and this one’s a cracker. ‘Sully’ is short for Chesley B Sullenberger (quintessentially American name!) the pilot who pulled off the Hudson River emergency landing after bird strike took out both engines of his Airbus 320 shortly after take-off from New York’s La Guardia airport on January 15, 2009. All 155 people on board survived.
Sully recounts these events in nail-biting, heart-stopping detail, and would be worth seeing for that aspect alone. But it’s also about what happened to Sully and his co-pilot in the days immediately following the incident. I hadn’t known, and neither had any of the friends with me in the cinema, that they were subjected to an intense grilling from aviation authorities, including accusations of misjudgment and incompetence. You’ll have to see it to get the full story, but it’s an interesting phenomenon that of all the ordinary people Sully encounters following the emergency – the passengers, their families, cops, rescue workers, random strangers in bars, his wife, his fellow crew members, the manager of the flash New York hotel he stays in while awaiting his fate – not one of them considers him anything other than a hero whose cool decisiveness and professional skill saved all those lives. It’s only Big Capital, as usual, that’s looking for scapegoats, and whose machinations keep our hero awake at nights worrying about his career, doubting his own actions and enduring dreadful nightmares about what might have happened if things had gone a bit differently.
This film is a rare Hollywood masterpiece. Clint Eastwood’s direction is spot-on, and Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as Sully. Five stars from me! And thank you for listening to my flying rave.
This review was first posted on Facebook in 2016