How’d you like it if you just pulled off the most miraculous move of your career, in the front of the clenched-shut eyes of 153 souls and most likely wide-open eyes of their highest Power, just to have your judgment-makers on a smug bureaucratic panel insist you made the wrong decision?
Meet Chesley Sullenberger. That’s Sully to his family, friends and the world after he landed that jet plane on the Hudson River the fateful day of Jan. 15, 2009 after bird strikes took out both of its engines shortly after it took off from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.
That move made the news cycle back then, as it should when something good of that magnitude happens in the Big Apple. Everything came together on a freezing cold day to save these people standing on the wings of a downed plane: boat drivers, helicopter drivers, divers. Incredible. Sully, his co-pilot and crew, they were all over the news and late night talk shows, as they should have been.
And the quiet, soft-spoken pilot wrote a book, Highest Duty, about all of that, as well as the hearing that resulted and how that made him feel. Director Clint Eastwood got hold of the script by Todd Komarnicki based on the book, and entrusted Tom Hanks with the title role.
And it is good, all 93 minutes of it. Hanks plays Sullenberger as a thoughtful, quiet, intelligent guy who’s self-tortured by what he went through those fateful minutes after the birds hit and during that hearing. Hanks acting and Eastwood’s vision are never over the top. They don’t have to be, really, letting what happened in real life do the talking. That, they know, was and is quite dramatic enough.
Aaron Eckhart is wonderful as Jeff Skiles, Sully’s co-pilot, slightly more fiery in personality but just as cool up their in the sky and under fire when the suits come a calling. Laura Linney puts in a good, short turn as Sully’s suffering wife, sharing his pain on the phone line from their home as he’s stuck answering all the questions from the suits and in his head.
The full 4:15 p.m. Saturday crowd in the big theater in the Regal Cinemas chain at Syracuse mall Shoppingtown cheered them all, crew, passengers and rescuers, including the nice touch during the credits as Eastwood pieced in footage of the real people who indeed lived through the ideal to tell about it.