A regular, commercial airplane is hit by a flock of geese moments after takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport. Both engines are rendered useless, forcing the captain to perform an emergency landing in the Hudson river. Sounds like a movie, right? Well, to be fair, it is a movie. Clint Eastwood's newest film, Sully , tells the story of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, played by Tom Hanks, and what happens to him after he lands an airplane in the Hudson. Now, unless you've been living in a news-free zone for the past seven or so years, this story should sound pretty familiar because Sully is based on a true story. To be more specific, it's based on the real events known as the "Miracle on the Hudson."
On January 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 was scheduled to fly from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, but instead of landing in North Carolina, the plane ended up floating in the Hudson between New York City and New Jersey. All 155 passengers and crew members on board survived the crash, a feat largely credited to Captain Sullenberger. It was a stunning sight, to say the least, and the story of Captain Sullenberger and the 155 lives he saved became an international sensation. Sullenberger was heralded as an American hero. He was on the cover of magazines, praised by Presidents (both Bush and Obama), and invited to the White House.
Everyone knows that story: the story of Captain Sully, the man who safely landed an airplane on the Hudson and saved lives by doing so. But, a lesser known part of the story is what happened after. In between parades, interviews, and honors, Sullenberger was being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board, among other organizations. In the eyes of the law, Sullenberger wasn't a hero, at least not yet. "We weren't certain for many months after the investigation that we really had made the right decisions at ever juncture and would ultimately be vindicated," Sullenberger said in an interview with Newsweek . "Most people don't understand that part of the story."
Sully focuses on the true story of the investigation into Sullenberger, and the toll it took on him and his family, even as people were calling him a national hero. "This [movie] is about all the behind-the-scenes things that really propel this traumatic event: the event itself, the pilots union investigation, the NTSB investigation," Sullenberger told Parade in an interview promoting the film.
Of course, just because the movie focuses on the drama of the investigation doesn't mean the crash isn't a big part of the film. In fact, filmmakers were so committed to accurately portraying the true events of the crash that actors Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart (who plays co-pilot Jeff Skiles) went through the entire flight on a flight simulator. "We flew it, the exact flight," Hanks told Parade in that same interview. Hanks added that he and Eckhart also flew the simulation that took the plane back to LaGuardia, a route found possible by flight simulator testing at the time of the investigation. "Aaron and I crashed horribly," Hanks admitted.
There's no way Sully is 100 percent accurate to the real events of the Miracle on the Hudson (what biopic ever is?), but it looks like it's about as close as it gets.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures