If Meryl Streep is America’s ‘every woman’ or at least can play them all, then Tom Hanks is clearly our ‘every man’, and in this Clint Eastwood film he gets to play what we would called a true hero— Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who miraculously landed a plane on the Hudson in the winter of 2009 with the rescue of all souls on board. This film is tight and taut, lasting only 96 minutes which fairly fly by. You might have expected no suspense, since we all know what happened, and how it turned out, but in fact, as Paul Harvey used to insist you need to know— ‘the rest of the story’. You need to know about Sully’s PTSDs after the fact, nightmares included. You need to know the impact this all had on his wife (played brilliantly, as usual, by Laura Linney) and children. You need to know why the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), appearing rather like the Spanish Inquisition, grilled Sully and his co-pilot so thoroughly. In short you need to know the prelude and the aftermath to really evaluate the magnitiude of the incident itself— attempting an unprecedented manuever— landing a large passenger plane on the water—- safely during a bitter cold winter!!
For some reason, America seems to like its heroes, or at least most of them, with feet of clay. We like slightly flawed characters that rise to the occasion. Perfect we don’t like so much. But there is hard to find much wrong with Sully. Indeed, he was harder on himself than anyone else was. And of course as he says, everyone is the X factor here that saved those 155 lives, not just him. And this brings up a good point— why do we insist on glorifying individuals when something heroic clearly took a team effort? We do this over and over again. It’s the great quarterback, or the fantastic pitcher, or the fabulous three point shooter, or the lone ranger. Well, we do this because we have bought the lie of radical individualism, at the expense of honoring good team work. N.Y. first responders, for example, all of them deserve huge credit for getting to the scene so quickly and rescuing people from the cold and from drowning. Ours is the most individualistic society to ever exist on planet earth, but sometimes, not most of the time, but sometimes it is in order to honor an individual who is especially a profile in courage.
This is an excellent film, carefully crafted, excellently acted, and moving. If you go, be sure to see the rolling of the credits which includes the reunion of the crew and passengers of this flight in recent days. It’s a film to take the whole family to. It’s a film that shows the best of America…. and we could use more of that when everyday on the TV we see people running for President who are disgraces—-absolutely disgraces.
When the co-pilot was asked by the NTSB if he would have done anything different, he replied ‘Yes, I would have done it in July’. Three cheers for such pilots.