On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, the world witnessed the “Miracle on the Hudson” when Captain Chesley Sullenberger, nicknamed “Sully” glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 aboard. However, even as Sully was being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill, an investigation was unfolding that threatened to destroy his reputation and his career.
Clint Eastwood and his collaborators have made one of the best aviation movies ever, although “Apollo 13”—also starring Tom Hanks—comes very close. Tom Stern, a longtime colleague of the director, was the cinematographer. The editor was Blu Murray, a new member of Mr. Eastwood’s team and a valuable one, to judge from the taut pace of the narrative. For all of its authenticity, Mr. Komarnicki’s script combines elements of fiction with solidly researched facts, and one of those fictional elements—a hearing held by the National Transportation Safety Board—paints the investigators quite shamelessly as hostile prosecutors, which they were not, while giving Sully a chance to make his eloquent and lucid case. I wish the hearing had been as nuanced as the rest of the film, but “Sully” remains an impressive achievement, a portrait of a good man whose heroism lay in having the right stuff and knowing how to use it during a small eternity of looming chaos and unprecedented peril.