On 15 January 2009, American pilot Chesley Sullenberger (played here by Tom Hanks) landed his crippled passenger jet on the Hudson river, saving the lives of all of the 155 souls on board.
But this remarkable achievement, named “the miracle on the Hudson”, only took a couple of minutes, from the bird strike that took out the engines to the splashdown. So even allowing for replaying of the emergency landing several times, plus the rescue mission, there’s still a lot of film left to fill.
To his credit, Eastwood handles the action sequences with the same cool-headed efficiency as Sully brought to his piloting – you suspect that Eastwood felt a kinship with this no-frills, no-nonsense man who was just doing his job. Less successful is the padding – an investigation into the event, which takes on a boo-hiss pantomime quality as the nasty National Transportation Safety Board inquisitors cast doubt on Sully’s decision. But the film’s emotional resonance comes not from the their probing questions but from the ones that Sully begins to ask himself. To this end, Hanks’s restrained, sober dignity in the role is nicely judged.
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