(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: With one six-minute flight Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, went from being a respected but obscure airline pilot to being a national hero who saved 155 lives after a plane crash. So why is he still having nightmares, and why would the NTSB be having hearings to determine if the cause of the crash was "pilot error"? Why does Sully hate to be labeled a hero? While at one time this story would have been about a pilot using his flight skills to save the passengers and crew aboard the plane, the modern story is as much about what is human vs. the computer. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 left LaGuardia Airport. Flying the craft was Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, pilot, and Jeffery Skiles, co-pilot. Less than three minutes into the flight the plane flew into a flock of Canada geese. Both the engines on the Airbus A320 were disabled. Sully had to make some very fast decisions. He decided it was much too dangerous to land in LaGuardia or nearby Teterboro Airport with no thrust from either engine. His rather unorthodox idea is to attempt a water landing in the Hudson River. Weeks later Sully is torn with self-doubt as to whether his decision was the right one or whether the passengers and crew, some 155 people, would have faced less risk had he tried a more conventional emergency landing.

In director Clint Eastwood's and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki's narrative, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has run computer simulations of the flight and has found either airport landing would have posed less danger to the lives on board the plane. While the media has portrayed Sully as a hero who saved the life of everybody on flight 1549, Sully is suffering from Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder. Meanwhile, his family is pestered by reporters and just about everybody else. It is in this frame of mind that Sully has to defend his actions to the NTSB and its damning computer simulations.

Tom Hanks plays Sully as a man with serious self-doubt. But the viewer has few misgivings. Like Jimmy Stewart and Morgan Freeman Tom Hanks is an actor we immediately associated with the good guys. Having Hanks in the role immediately assuages any doubt that we might have that Sully might have endangered his passengers. Hanks is Mr. Integrity. Supporting Hanks is Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot and loyal friend of Sully. Laura Linney plays Lorraine Sullenberger, Sully's wife, who has little to do here but worry about her husband and provide him some moral support.

A story about a six-minute flight is hard to adapt into a film script. Should the film have all its action about the middle of the film and then the rest filled with talk? Todd Komarnicki's screenplay, directed by Clint Eastwood, solves the pacing problem by starting the film just as the plane hits the geese, but at that time it gives a short and incomplete telling of the events of that day. From there the point of view jumps around in time, mostly taking place during the later investigation by the NTSB. Eastwood gives us only two quick scenes from Sully's past. It is not enough to tell us much about him so it fails to broaden our understanding of the character. Instead and to add more visual excitement there are at least two fantasy sequences in which Sully imagines what a disaster his decision might all two easily have been. Each ends with a spectacular explosion.

The film SULLY is a tribute to a hero who does not wear a spandex costume or have a license to kill. He is a flesh and blood human with nonetheless tremendous skill. a man who knew what he had to do to save lives. If there is any lingering doubt that he is a real person, we see and hear him during the closing credits of the film. I rate Clint Eastwood's screen adaptation of his autobiography a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2016 Mark R. Leeper