Sully is Clint Eastwood’s September 2016 film about the pilot that landed an Airbus A320 passenger airplane in the Hudson River off Manhattan on the afternoon of January 15, 2009. Both engines of the plane failed after a flock of geese collided with the plane shortly after takeoff. All aboard survived. The surprising “success” of the response was primarily attributed to the calm reaction of Pilots Captain Chesley Sullenberger (Sully) and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles.
The core conflict in Sully involves the tension between the seemingly obvious success of the response to the engine failure and the second guessing that occurs during formal investigations of any event, which in this case was being performed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The film also portrays Captain Sully questioning his actions, with dream sequences showing alternate outcomes, such as the plane crashing in the heart of the business district of New York City. Had Captain Sully been found to have erred in landing the plane in the Hudson, his career as a pilot and aeronautic safety expert would have ended, resulting in personal ruination.
The movie is relatively short. As a movie-goer, I would not expect Tom Hanks to play a protagonist who was ultimately found to be a failure. Yet Clint Eastwood does heighten the conflict enough that the pain the main character experiences feels real while we watch the film.
Sully provides viewers a chance to experience the roller coaster ride of fear and despair with Captain Sully while knowing that at the end the ride will come to a safe and happy ending. Continue reading