'Sully' Review: Tom Hanks Has Never Been Better as Everyman Turned Hero

Clint Eastwood directs the real-life story of the pilot landing in the Hudson.

Rated PG-13

Four-and-a-half out of five stars

It’s impossible to forget and you likely remember where you were when you heard about it. You might also remember vividly the images of the passengers huddled together on the wings of the A320 floating in the middle of New York’s icy Hudson River.

Following a catastrophic, double-engine bird strike, veteran pilot Sullenberger ditched the plane in the water, saving 155 souls and giving himself, and everybody else on the plane, a new beginning. In the process, he gave an entire city -- perhaps a whole country -- an inspiring and uplifting story at a time when we all needed some good news. Sully is an actual, real-life hero.

Admittedly, it’s a bit hard for me to be completely objective here. I’ve been driving down the Henry Hudson Parkway, alongside the Hudson River -- essentially the flight path of US Airways 1549 -- for the last 11 years. I work about a mile or so away from where Sully landed that plane. A few days before it happened, I even happened to fly on Sully’s airline, out of the same airport, to the destination where Sully was headed. A couple of years later, on another plane, I sat next to a terrific gentleman named Billy Campbell –- one of those 155 souls saved by Sully.

Those are just a few of the reasons this story is a bit personal, but I’m not alone. It’s particularly personal to New Yorkers, who vividly remember a passenger plane flying down the Hudson towards the World Trade Center 15 years ago. But for those who may not feel a personal connection to Flight 1549 at all, we have "Sully."

The re-creation of Flight 1549 may be the scenes for which this film is remembered best. Eastwood trains his camera on the minutiae of the flight preparation: a tired passenger here, a man squeezing through an aisle there, a woman helping her elderly mother, parents fussing over their baby, flight attendants checking seat belts and giving safety instructions. It doesn’t just look like air travel -- it feels like air travel. And if you've ever flown, you'll reach for your seat belt because you’re going to feel like you, too, are on that plane. This may be the most well-executed, realistic depiction of modern-day air travel I’ve ever experienced in a movie.

Then there’s the actual flight, which I won’t describe, except to say that it is harrowing and palpable.

In short, this film is remarkable, with the exception of some questionable scoring, and several historically inaccurate depictions of the Hudson River in 2009. But I’ll give Clint Eastwood and company a pass on those points because this truly is a film for the ages.