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Splash Hit

Clint Eastwood's 'Sully' gets to tell some good news

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TAKE ME TO THE RIVER  Tom Hanks, right,  plays the cool-under-pressure pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who successfully crash-landed on the Hudson River in 2009.
  • TAKE ME TO THE RIVER Tom Hanks, right, plays the cool-under-pressure pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who successfully crash-landed on the Hudson River in 2009.

Giving the audience what they want—a fantastic aerial disaster in which no one gets hurt—Clint Eastwood's often pretty good Sully is highlighted by the self-effacing underacting of Tom Hanks as Chesley Sullenberger. Eastwood is certainly lionizing a higher grade of person than American sniper Chris Kyle this time.

Appropriately, Hanks plays the Diablo Valley–based pilot as a dream movie hero, soft-spoken, reluctant to accept praise. Nerveless in the cockpit, the fear only strikes him later when he's alone in the bath or out running off the anxiety on late-night jogs.

Winging to Charlotte, N.C., from La Guardia on Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 encountered a flock of Canadian geese. The birds entered and exploded both engines on the plane. Eastwood's film suggests the real ordeal was to come: inquiry from the government agents who believed that Sullenberger could have brought the jet home to one of two nearby airports, instead of splashing down on the river.

The story of Sullenberger's forced water landing on the Hudson is natural material for a movie. Hanks handles the wheel with his fear swallowed down, leaving a rugged Aaron Eckhart (as Flight 1549's first officer Jeff Skiles) to handle the reactions. Eckhart does the slow burns, the skepticism, and utters the seeming sole joke in the movie—an aside about water temperature.

Opening on the 15th anniversary weekend of Sept. 11, Sully is consoling counterprogramming: "We don't get much good news here in New York . . . especially regarding airplanes," says a minor character here, lest we forget. And Sully is a particularly touching film, given that age discrimination is considered a smart business practice. No one of a certain age forgets that Sullenberger was 57 when he saved the lives of some 150 passengers.

'Sully' is playing in wide release in the North Bay.

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