How Accurate Is 'Sully'? The New Movie Sticks Close To The Captain's Story
It took over seven years, but the so-called "Miracle on the Hudson" is finally coming to the big screen. To be honest, it was only a matter of time before the story of the 2009 US Airways Flight 1549 found its way to Hollywood. After all, as is pointed out in the film, it's not everyday you see a passenger plane crash land in the Hudson River. Looking at a trailer for Sully, Clint Eastwood's new movie on US Airways Flight 1549 Captain Chelsey Sullenberger, commonly known as Captain Sully, it's not hard to remember the real events and recognize that Sully is based on a true story. But what about the plot of the film, which focuses on the internal investigations into the crash and Sullenberger's decision to land on the Hudson? Just how accurate is Sully ?
If you ask the real Captain Sully, the answer is that Sully is pretty damn accurate. Based on his book, Highest Duty, Sully stays true to many facts of the real story, particularly as it pertains to the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. "The level of detail, the granularity of it... All those kinds of things translate pretty well to the screen, and it seems real. It feels real," Sullenberger said in an interview with USA Today . In fact, Eastwood was so committed to getting the details of Sullenberger's story right he had a special effects team go in in post-production to change the color of the class ring Hanks wears in the film from yellow gold to white gold to match the captain's real ring.
Many details of the NTSB investigation are accurate, especially as they relate to the actual parameters of the crash. Cockpit recordings and countless accounts have left little question as to what really happened on the day of the crash. And, just as in the film, Captain Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, were found to have acted heroically, despite computer simulations that confirmed it would have been possible for the plane to make it back to LaGuardia Airport. "We didn't know if we made the choice at every juncture that led to the best outcome... For many months, we didn't know that and we were waiting for the other shoe to drop," Sullenberger revealed in an interview with NY Daily News .
This very real uncertainty provides most of the tension in Sully, but it's tough to say that every detail of the investigation is accurate. The film is very much told through Sullenberger's point of view, and paints him as the one true hero who not only saved the lives of everyone on board Flight 1549, but who also saved his career by changing the parameters of simulations during the investigation. It's unclear how big of a role Sullenberger actually played in proving he and his co-pilot made the best decision by landing in the Hudson, though trial transcripts are public.
Furthermore, NTSB investigators have publicly taken issue with their portrayal in the film. Robert Benzon, who led the investigation into the crash in 2009, has spoken out against the film, claiming it unfairly paints NTSB investigators as the villains. "We're not the KGB. We're not the Gestapo," Benzon said via CBS News. Bustle has reached out to Warner. Bros for comment on this matter, but hasn't heard back at this time. In a trailer for Sully , Eastwood claimed that "the investigative board was trying to paint the picture that he [Sullenberger] had done the wrong thing." Yet in an interview with The Associated Press (via CBS News), Hanks recalled how Sullenberger requested the names of the NTSB investigators be changed if they were going to be used as antagonists in the story.
Then there's also the issue of the phone call. Cockpit recordings from Flight 1549 seem to reveal Sullenberger making a brief, flight-related phone call from his cell phone before take off. The call has been questioned, as cell phone usage is not allowed while taxiing, though according to The Wall Street Journal , investigators did not find that the cell phone call impacted the flight in any way. The phone call, however, is completely missing from the film.
Some details might be in question, but overall, Sully sticks pretty closely to Sullenberger's truth, which is really all that it can do.
Images: Warner Bros. Pictures