Tuesday, December 13, 2016


They gave it away said the film critics. How clunky to reveal up front that Sully, the eponymous pilot hero managed to land his A320 on the Hudson river, saving the lives of all 155 souls aboard.

I thought the film makers were respecting the intelligence of their audience. The emergency landing back in 2009 was reported all around the world. I can still remember the news reports from back then. We all know the plane is going down. 

The dramatic heart of the film concerns whether pilot Sully was indeed the hero he was made out to be immediately after the event. I didn't know anything about that bit. Couldn't he have landed his stricken plane on a nearby runway rather than in a river? Risky business, landing on water. Usually deadly. 

Tom Hanks plays the Sully role in his customary 'ordinary bloke in extraordinary circumstances' kind of way. He's done it as a soldier, sailor, lawyer, toy cowboy and now as an airman. But this isn't Hanks on autopilot by any means. He brings out the quiet, understated dignity and warmth of his character. His humanity as a husband, father and pilot. 

Humanity is the key thing here. The panel charged with investigating the forced landing speak of computer algorithms and run flight simulations, but little account is taken of human decision making processes. In captain Sully's case decisions honed by years of flying, consummate professional skill and nerves of steel. Computers don't do instinct. 

The reviews I read also complained that the landing on the Hudson is replayed numerous times during the film. But each time the action is gut wrenching and adds layers of meaning to the event. The final showing being the most revelatory. 

The film is a paean to dignity of work and a testament to the value of human life. Bemused by being labelled a hero, Sully says to his copilot, 'We were just doing our jobs' - in saving 155 lives. If a job's worth doing it's worth doing well, whether as an airline pilot, a teacher, a refuse collector, or a preacher,  Colossians 3:23-24.  

It's worth waiting for the real life sequences played alongside the credits at the end of the film, showing the real Sully and the passengers and crew he saved.

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