How does a filmmaker create drama for a well known real-life event in which everyone survives with barely a laceration? That is the challenge that director Clint Eastwood and star Tom Hanks confidently tackle in Sully which opened September 9, 2016. Read on to find out CSK reader and aviation buff, Jason Redd’s thoughts on the movie. Have you seen it? Do you plan to?
*Editor’s note: I (Beth Henry) haven’t seen the movie yet, so one of our readers, Jason Redd, offered his review. I thought this review was so good, including recommendations for whether or not the film is appropriate for children, that I asked if we could publish the review here. He agreed, so here it is! Read more about contributor Jason Redd at the end of this post. If you have seen the movie we would love to hear your thoughts about it. Comment below or on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page!
Centered around the successful water ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City on January 15, 2009, the film explores the mental and emotional toll of the accident and subsequent investigation. While the water landing, successful evacuation, and rescue of all passengers and crew is the crowning set piece of the film, the mental toll on Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles forms the heart of the film. Even as the city and world celebrate Captain Sullenberger as a hero, his mental state and relationship to his wife are frayed by unrelenting media pressure, self-doubt, and an aggressive NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation. The flight crew and flight attendants are depicted positively throughout the film, including the pre-flight safety announcements and highlighting their dedication to the safety of the passengers throughout the flight.
[Minor spoilers below]
A word of caution is due for New York City based flight crews and residents in particular. While the ultimate outcome of the accident is known, the film explores Captain Sullenberger’s repeated nightmares of unsuccessful outcomes of the flight, including graphic depictions of the airliner crashing into midtown Manhattan buildings. Given the setting, comparisons to 9/11 are inevitable. First Office Skiles and local residents reference both 9/11 and American Airlines flight 587, which crashed in New York City two months after 9/11, in conversations after the water landing.
I would not recommend this movie for children younger than in their late teens for two reasons: 1) the vivid crash scenes depicted may result in anxiety and 2) this film is simply unlikely to hold a younger child’s interest. Note that this film includes multiple graphic crash sequences, loud alarms, near drowning, alcohol consumption, and repeated profanity.
For aviation geeks, the filmmakers worked closely with American Airlines* to ensure authenticity in the details, down to the union pins worn by members of the cabin crew and pilots. Cockpit and cabin scenes were filmed in retired US Airways aircraft and the actual Airbus A320 involved in the accident, which is now displayed at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte. Scenes at LaGuardia were filmed on location; during the Runway 4 takeoff scene the well-known American Airlines hangers are clearly seen to the right, as well as the familiar orange and white jet blast deflectors around the south end of the runway. The depictions of the NTSB interviews and hearing are much more confrontational than reported and observed in contemporary accounts, presumably to give the film an “adversary” in what is essentially a positive story.
Be sure to remain in the theater for post-credits scenes filmed with the actual crew and passengers of Flight 1549 reuniting next to the accident airplane in Charlotte.
In conclusion, Sully is a thoughtful film that celebrates everyday people overcoming extraordinary circumstances while never losing sight of the hidden trauma that affects even unflappable heroes.
Read the Book:
The movie Sully was based on Captain Sullenberger’s 2009 book, Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters. You can get your copy of the book here (affiliate link: any earning from affiliates go directly toward the operation of this website. Thank you for your support!).
Have you seen the movie Sully? We’d love to hear what you thought of it! Comment below!
About Contributor Jason Redd: Jason Redd is a frequent flying engineering supervisor for a Fortune 500 energy company. Jason, his wife Heather, their cloud surfing daughter and son, and their Yorkshire Terrier make their home in Helena, Alabama. When not on the road or in the sky, he enjoys spending time with his family, travel, reading, church, sports, and photography. He has never met a dog he didn’t want to pet.