On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia airport in New York bound for North Carolina with 155 passengers and crew on board.
Three minutes into take-off, a flock of Canadian geese impacted the aircraft, causing multiple strikes to both engines that necessitated an emergency landing.
Captain Chesley Sullenberger, known affectionately as Sully, drew on years of experience to glide the stricken Airbus A320 onto the Hudson River in freezing conditions rather than head back to LaGuardia or another runway.
Aided by First Officer Jeff Skiles, Sully safely landed on water and oversaw the evacuation of everyone on board into ferry boats that raced to the scene. The captain was hailed a hero by a city still bearing the scars of the September 11 attacks.
The film centres on the subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into Sully’s actions that fateful day.
Clint Eastwood’s exemplary thriller is a masterclass in sustained tension, replaying events aboard US Airways Flight 1549 and from the ground, from multiple perspectives, including air traffic controller Patrick Harten (Patch Darragh) and ferry boat captain (Vince Lombardi, playing himself).
Screenwriter Todd Komarnicki punctuates this deeply human story with different iterations of the crash landing, including chilling scenes of the Airbus ploughing into skyscrapers when Sully (Tom Hanks) imagines a fruitless attempt to reach LaGuardia.
The NTSB investigation led by Charles Porter (Mike O’Malley), Elizabeth Davis (Anna Gunn) and Ben Edwards (Jamey Sheridan), forms the crux and the script nimbly condenses the actual 15-month timeframe to explore the emotional strain on Sully and First Officer Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) as they defend their actions.
“I’ve had 40 years in the air, but in the end, I’m going to be judged by 208 seconds,” laments Sully.
Hanks delivers a deeply affecting, yet understated, lead performance, eliciting pathos as he contends with post-traumatic stress disorder in the eye of a media storm.
Sully: Miracle On The Hudson is a rousing tribute to a man who repeatedly deflects praise and quietly observes, “I don’t feel like a hero. I was just a man doing a job”.