Sully demonstrates how based-on-true-incident stories should be told. Restrained, dignified, and with a firm eye on the human aspect.
On Jan 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 suffered a devastating bird strike that took out both of its engines. In the face of a catastrophic crash, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger makes a frightening decision. Rather than attempt to reach the nearest airports, he decides to ditch the aircraft into the freezing waters of the Hudson River.
Many thing could go wrong with a story like Sully. Foremost of which being the inclination, the compulsion, to exaggerate. How do you paint a stirring portrait of a legendary hero without over relying on embellishments and hyperboles? How do you earn the awe of a paying audience, without deviating too much from truth and reality?
Sully doesn’t completely get all of these balances right, and by that I mean its contentious portrayal of the NTSB as an antagonistic, fault-insistent committee for storytelling purposes. On the whole, though, Sully still shines brighter than most other movies in this genre because of its choice to tell the rest of the story as it was. Audiences hungry for action are going to be sorely disappointed here. Tom Hanks’ Chesley Sullenberger borders on being stony and there is absolutely no Hollywood style heroics in the movie. Even the climatic Hudson River rescue scene is accompanied by melancholic piano music, rather than strident symphonic marches.
Yet, these directorial choices are exactly what infused the movie with a stirring humanism. You will empathise with the misfortune of the passengers, just as you will celebrate their rescue. Most of all, you will leave the cinema with deep curiosity and respect for the real-life Chesley Sullenberger. Here is a man with exceptional skills, who made an exceptional decision that saved the lives of 155 persons on a freezing January day. What was he thinking during those fateful moments? Would he do the same in a repeated situation? Did he ever regret his final decision on that overcast day?
Chew on these questions. And then you will know that the movie has worked its magic on you.
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