Sully Parent Review
As entertainment, this movie offers a first class experience with solid performances and an everyday hero who is more than worthy of our admiration.
Can it be true that Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks), the amazing pilot who landed his dead duck plane on the Hudson River and saved the lives of 155 people on board, isn’t the hero that he appears to be? For the sake of a good tale Hollywood is willing to sully the captain’s reputation, and twist the facts just enough to keep us engaged in this movie that heralds a real life event.
In fairness, the miraculous story of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 is a difficult one to dramatize. The entire incident, from the time the plane took off, struck a flock of birds and splashed down in the river, happened in less than four minutes. And as incredible as the outcome was, Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) made it appear deceptively ordinary… up, down, rescue, done. Put to screen, you’d hardly have time to get comfortable in your seat. So to give audiences a little more time to enjoy the ride screenwriters (which include Sullenberger, whose book Highest Duty was used as inspiration) added an antagonistic National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) investigator, Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley).
Porter never questions Sully’s professional credentials (a point well made in the film), but he does grill the veteran flyer’s judgements on that cold January day in 2009. After the close encounter with a flock of Canada Geese, quick decisions had to be made. Do they turn back to LaGuardia Airport in New York City, where the plane had just departed from? Or aim for a runway in New Jersey? With barely two-thousand feet of altitude to work with, neither option seemed possible to Sully. Instead, he decided to ditch the plane in the water, a rare occurrence for a large passenger jet and even more rare to have all occupants survive with only a few minor injuries. Yet, despite the happy outcome, could it be the captain subjected his passengers to undue risk when he simply could have turned around and touched back down?
The drama unfolds over what seems like barely a week while investigators replay the event with computer models that provide increasing evidence to suggest the water landing wasn’t a good idea. Meanwhile Sully and Skiles sweat out the ordeal in their New York hotel rooms, releasing anxiety with late night runs through the city streets. Adding to the strain are phone calls from Sully’s wife Lorraine (Laura Linney) who is wanting her husband back in the air ASAP so bills can be paid and mortgage commitments kept.
Other than the obvious peril of experiencing a flight in distress, there is little in this film to concern parents of teens who may want to view it. Profanity is the main issue, with the needless inclusion of a single sexual expletive. (Seemingly it is there to ensure a more “serious” PG-13 rating in the U.S.—lest anyone mistake this for a children’s movie.) Other swear words are infrequent. There is no sexual content and alcohol is limited to Sully taking an anxious drink in the bar late one night a few days after the accident.
Perhaps more relevant to family viewing is the obvious message embedded in this film – one that is likely close to the heart of the aging Clint Eastwood, who skillfully directs this movie. Our protagonist offers decades of flight experience when facing an unprecedented mechanical breakdown, something no computer could duplicate. Sully’s grayed hair and mustache are signifiers of his inherent abilities and wisdom gained from simply doing the same thing over and over and over and honing his skills for this very moment.
While Sully’s self-doubts offer some realistic drama, Sully the movie depends a little too much on coincidental evidence showing up at just the right moment. In reality, government investigators are somewhat concerned the fictional elements of this script may lead pilots to be less cooperative in future incidents. That being said, as entertainment, Sully offers a first class experience with solid performances and an everyday hero who is more than worthy of our admiration.Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney. Running time: 96 minutes. Updated September 12, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Sully here.
Sully Parents Guide
Stories and scripts usually include a “good guy” and a “bad guy” in order to create a drama and tension. How do these expectations interfere with this movie’s ability to depict the events of a real life incident? Are we putting the truth at risk by perpetrating falsehoods? Or do the benefits of telling a “good” story that is based on true events outweigh the need to be accurate?
What messages about age and experience are included in this script? Do you think these qualities are being undermined in today’s society by the need to save money? What benefits do younger employees bring to the workplace? What do you see as being the best compromise of wisdom versus youth?
Has viewing this film affected the way you feel about the idea of automating transportation systems (like planes and cars) and/or the development of autonomous vehicles?