Hudson, we have a problem.
Tom Hanks and planes are never a good mix. Having crashed into the Pacific in Cast Away and squatted at JFK airport in The Terminal, the actor’s latest aviation-themed role sees him guiding a disabled US Airways jet into New York’s Hudson River as real-life Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger.
The story made headlines in 2009, when Sully successfully achieved a “water landing” (not a crash) after a bird strike destroyed both engines of the plane at low altitude, making a landing at nearby LaGuardia Airport impossible. The 155 people onboard emerged unscathed and Sully was declared a hero.
That’s what we saw on the news, but there was more to the story, and director Clint Eastwood’s film delves into the National Transportation Safety Board investigation that followed the incident. According to the NTSB, their simulations confirmed that the plane could have safely touched down on a runway, and Sully’s actions are called into question.
The film opens after the fact, with the predictably spectacular Hudson landing replayed from several different perspectives over the course of a lean 96 minutes. Although we already know the outcome, the investigation and subsequent hearing still manages to plant a seed of uncertainty that Sully acted accordingly, and Hanks alternates between moments of self-doubt and resolve that he made the right decision.
As the humble hero who insists he was simply doing his job, Hanks is perfectly cast, and Eastwood presents a straightforward version of the story that’s solely concerned with the facts. It’s the right approach – Sully celebrates its eponymous hero and the “Miracle on the Hudson” without the descent into sentiment that tends to clog most true stories.
In cinemas: September 8, 2016
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Directed by: Clint Eastwood