The pilot only had a few seconds to think about it.
Then he had to make a fateful decision.
On January 15, 2009, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom
Hanks) was piloting U.S. Airways flight 1549 out of La Guardia, en route
to Charlotte. Everything
looked routine to him and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart).
But suddenly a flock of Canadian geese was upon them, which were
sucked into both engines, which then immediately burned up.
Sullenberger and Skiles found themselves without thrust, and
descending rapidly. After a
few seconds to try to digest the console information and assess the
situation, they contacted air traffic control about the possibility of
returning to La Guardia, or possibly another airport nearby.
But by then there just wasn't enough time, or enough altitude.
Captain Sully made the only decision he thought was available to
him: he lands the plane on the
Hudson River. Amazingly, all
155 of the passengers and crew survived.
It's an incredible true story about the quick rescue efforts of the
port authority boats and helicopter police, as well as the evacuation of
the airplane itself. It's a
poignant picture, those people standing out on both wings with the
airplane in the water, and the rest of the passengers clinging to a couple
of inflatable life rafts (which actually worked like they were supposed
to, as well). Everyone
survived; there were no casualties. So
everybody thank the Lord and their lucky stars and go home, right?
Wrong, bureaucratic-breath. Director
Clint Eastwood tells the story from the point of view of the calm, stoic
Captain suffering from some post-traumatic stress immediately after the
incident. He's already been
sequestered by the authorities, who are determined to conduct an immediate
investigation. The way the
movie depicts it, Sully wasn't even allowed to go home first.
So he had to talk to his wife, Lorraine (Laura Linney), by phone,
and tell her he was OK, just stay home with “the girls” (their two
daughters) and everything would be fine.
Except it wasn't. Sully
was having nightmares, and sometimes even day-mares------moments when he
was seeing his plane crashing into the buildings of New York City and
exploding in a ball of flame. Sully
flashbacked to his military days, when he was piloting an Air Force
fighter jet that had developed engine trouble, and he had to “hot
land” it to save both himself and the airplane.
This time, of course, the airplane couldn't be saved.
It sunk into the Hudson, much to the chagrin of the insurers of the
airline. The news media began
treating Sully as a hero, until it was leaked that the investigators were
claiming that the computer simulation of the incident showed that the
plane could have turned around to La Guardia successfully.
But that simulation did not take into account the human factor.
The movie has Sully insisting that “real” pilots be involved in
the simulation, and that some additional seconds of “reaction and
assessment” be added to the simulation scenario.
With those factors, it became clear that Sully somehow
instinctively did precisely the right thing, the only thing that would
have saved all the passengers and crew.
So he was exonerated.
Director Eastwood chooses to end the story there, other than a
postscript during the credits where we meet the “real” Sully and some
of the “real” passengers as they exult in their good fortune together.
It's a true feel-good story. And
for 95 minutes, Director Eastwood lets it tell itself, without further