The amazing feat of landing an airliner on the Hudson River following a crippling bird strike soon became a bureaucratic sideshow driven by insurance concerns for the loss of the aircraft . . . and attempts to blame the pilot because all the passengers and crew survived.
And that is the crux of this superior screenplay about the very real events of an airliner that loses all power after colliding with a flock of large water birds shortly after take off from La Guardia and begins losing altitude with both engines disabled. Unable to reach any of the four nearby airports, Pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger opts to land on the Hudson River -- a choice which saves the lives of everyone onboard.
There wasn't much advance publicity about Sully, which was a good thing, I was surprised that Hanks had been chosen to play the title role, as I was still disappointed with Hanks' totally unconvincing portrayal of Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks (2013), and I still wonder how he got talked into participating in the vapid and worthless Cloud Atlas.
But here he shines as this career pilot whose troubles really begin after the landing on the Hudson, when he was grilled by the National Transportation Safety Board and reprimanded for not returning the plane to La Guardia after the bird strike, based on their "evidence" that one engine was in tact and had thrust available.
Tom Hanks (left) and the real Sully (right)
This is the heart of the story, directed by Clint Eastwood -- did Sully make the right decision? The convincing re-creation of the landing on the river and the evacuation of the passengers are worth the price of admission alone, but the depiction of the hostile NTSB members is eye-opening, though they claim that this screenplay depicted them in an inaccurate and unfair light. Having watched hours of the Congressional hearings on Benghazi and the hostile interrogation by some individuals on those committees, I wonder.
My only lingering question is about the bird strike itself. Just when did birds decide to unionize, anyway?
For Netflix fans, here are some new selections worth seeing:
A Conversation with Gregory Peck (a documentary featuring stage conversations with the revered actor, along with clips from his finest films, and a look into his home and family life).
A Royal Night Out ( a delightful look at the night the war ended in Europe when the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret persuaded their reluctant parents to let them leave the palace and go out into the streets of London to experience the celebration )
In the Shadow of the Moon ( a documentary narrated by many of the astronauts who landed on the moon, what they saw, what they remember . . . and some video of landings on, and take-offs from the moon that you may have only seen once . . or never seen before)
The Finest Hours ( Chris Pine stars in this story of one of the greatest rescues in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard)