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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Miracle On the Hudson

Sully (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

We open in a deceptive calm (“Runway 4 clear for takeoff”) followed by a bird strike (“Mayday, mayday, flight 1459 lost both engines”) and 208 minutes of pure terror as the plane turns back to land at La Guardia. Co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart) warns Captain Chesley Sullen­berger (Tom Hanks), “Sully, we're too low,” and the plane crashes into buildings.

Skip to a river scene with Sully (now awake) jogging lost in his own thoughts (“What's the matter with you?”) then the Marriott, down­town where he is attending hearings on Flight 1459. The National Trans­por­tation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting hearings on the “crash.” Sully rather terms it a “forced water landing.” They want to know on what he based his calculations to land the plane in the Hudson, and he replies, “There was no time for calculations; I eye­balled it.” It was a “dual engine failure due to multiple bird strikes.” Looks like some­one's not on the same page here.

I'm reminded of a passage from novelist Paul Mann: (172)

Across Flushing Bay on his left he could see the big jets landing and taking off at La Guardia Air­port. Beyond that was the glamorous, glittering night­time spectacle of Manhattan. One bawdy, jeweled phallus after another, competing to see which was the mightiest monument to capitalism. To his right was the Flushing Civic Air­port, small, quiet, and deserted.

Having the plane he was piloting survive a forced water landing, Sully seems now about to run afoul of a “monument to capitalism” in the guise of the insurance companies seeking a pound of flesh for their sunken plane, Sully's hero status notwithstanding.


Sully justifies his decision for a forced water landing on the basis of his judgment honed by 42 years flying experience. Flash­backs take us to his barn­storming days at a Denison, Texas private airfield, his flight lessons in a biplane that he was allowed to take up on his own out­side of instruction hours. Also shown was a portion of his military flying, landing a partially disabled jet when a lesser air­man might have “punched out.” Such "wasted" time was used to develop experience that later proves invaluable and is likely what is meant by, (Eccl.11:1) “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.”

That's followed by a lesson in preparedness, (Eccl. 11:2) “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.” Seven is the number of completion; the air traffic controller had a complete reference to the run­ways and/or airports available to a plane in trouble. Besides that complete record is allowance for an off-runway landing (in this case the river) should an emergency require it. Think of the training required to bring the plane in just right to splash­down, as well as inflatable evacuation chutes that can be turned into rafts, seat cushions that double as life vests, and river patrols that can rescue a fallen plane's passengers, not just those from a sinking boat. This last is crucial considering the January weather in New York, as Mann similarly indicates for April: (179–80)

It was the temperature that made the East River deadly. Winter had barely relaxed its grip. Six weeks earlier there had been ice on these wharves. The … water would still only be a few degrees above freezing point. Flannery's whole body began to shudder as the icy wind buffeted in from the Sound, cutting through his sodden clothing, adding to his misery. …

Flannery let out a cry of pure terror. The pain was beyond any­thing he had ever known. He had never dreamed that cold could cause so much pain.

(Eccl. 11:3) “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty them­selves upon the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.” Saturation and inertia. With no engines operating, their air­speed will be bleeding off and their lift from the air­foil of the wings correspondingly unable to hold the plane aloft. If they turn star­board or port, to one air­port or another, they are committed; they've not got the power for a re-do. Analysis and decision making takes precious seconds after which their options are precious few to the point of almost lacking any.

(Eccl. 11:4) “He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.” It's easy enough to check, after the fact, whether the pilots and crew were on any mind-altering substances—let's hope not—that would have affected their performance.

Production Values

This film, “” was directed by Clint Eastwood. The screen­play was written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the auto­biog­raphy, Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullen­berger & Jeffrey Zaslow. It stars Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Holt McCallany, and Jerry Ferrara. Tom Hanks delivered an expected solid performance, with restraint & finesse. Teamed with Aaron Eckhart they share an infectious, on-screen esprit de (air) corps. Other actors do their bit well, also.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some peril and brief strong language. Kudos to the visual effects team for their markedly efficient recreation of the historic event. Tom Stern's cinema­tog­raphy is flawless. The entire airplane incident (shot in IMAX) is so realistic all it needs is the theater air conditioning set too high to put us johnny-on-the-spot. Christian Jacob and the Tierney Sutton Band's score is good, with the theme song written also by Clint East­wood. Judicious editing and flashbacks set the pace, and gripping questions move the story forward. The CGI is quite effective.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Sully” is a taut drama, a passable B-movie punctuated by tense moments while remaining consistently interesting. It's not like “Flight” where a stoned pilot pulled a stunt, but this one relied on solid pro­fes­sion­al­ism. My dad was a pilot in the war, so I'm interested in all things avionic. Naturally, I liked this movie. Judging by the size of the appreciative audience, there were a lot of others who liked it, too.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Absolutely amazing special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: Several suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: three and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Mann, Paul. The Traitor's Contract. New York: Kinghtsbridge Pub. Co., 1991. Print.