When you bring together the two titanic forces of Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks, you know you’re heading in the right direction. That’s without mentioning the story they’re working with being one of the most extraordinary flight tails there has ever been. “The Miracle on the Hudson” as it was so accurately named was over in the space of a few minutes, and so the only problem with the story’s adaptation to the big screen is filling time. Unfortunately that can’t be done by replaying the crash (or ‘successful water landing’ as pilot Sullenberger would prefer), though they do try that approach a little.
Though Eastwood could have done a film of the event itself as the main narrative, he instead focuses on the aftermath, in which the National Transportation Safety Board questioned Sully’s (Tom Hanks) reasoning for choosing to land his plane in the Hudson which, despite no casualties, likely caused millions in damages to the companies’ equipment, stock and general credibility. Their doubt on his decision allow them to function as the antagonist of the piece, with Sully being the knight with shining hair who is wrongly in the firing line. Though this plays out as the bulk of the story, it’s by far the most interesting.
That’s because aside from the odd PTSD flashback there’s little to intrigue us this side of the story (until the final hearing). There’s enough to develop sympathy for Sully but as far as enjoyment or emotional responsiveness there’s little go on. Instead, halfway through the film we actually see a replaying of the event itself, and that’s where the emotion really begins to flow. At points I found myself holding back the tears, remembering some of the most harrowing moments of films like United 93 where passengers begin to play with and confront the idea they may die. Even though you know everything comes out alright for all involved, Eastwood perfectly directs the action so that you’re still wincing as the plane goes down.
Sully’s greatest achievement is bringing this story to the attention of those who may have missed it. Chesley Sullenberger is evidence of the greatest character strength. His integrity never wavers and throughout the descent of his aircraft his bravery in the face of unimaginable odds is the only thing that saved every person on board. This is the story of the truest of heroes who is an honour to the human condition. A man who’s miracle story has been accurately judged and delivered to us all thanks to the continuing greatness of Eastwood and Hanks.