A cold New York winter day in 2009: The great financial crisis that began in 2007 was still dominating the news, Barack Obama had been inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, Michael Jackson died, and an airliner landed successfully in the middle of the Hudson River. Meanwhile … wait a minute. What? What landed in the middle of what?

Yes. US Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, went down in the Hudson River, after being struck by a flock of Canadian geese shortly after takeoff. It was a successful landing with no fatalities. Hooray.

This week, “Sully” the movie opened nationwide with who else but Tom Hanks portraying “Sully.”

Yes, the same Tom Hanks who played ship captain Richard Phillips who was, with his ship, taken by pirates 280 miles southeast of Eyl, Somalia, as played out in the film “Captain Phillips.”

There is no credible evidence that Tom Hanks will be cast as Pontius Pilate or Pope Francis in upcoming biopics.

But here Tom is again, cinema’s Everyman, one-size-fits-all-parts actor of the century.


The film, in case you were in Lower Slobovia in 2009, is about how Capt. Sullenberger, who had just taken off from that old fashioned airport, La Guardia, ran into a flock of geese, blew out both engines and with little power and no where else to go, put his airbus down in the fabled Hudson River.

There were 155 souls aboard who survived, got out and learned to perform the now famous wing walk, the first dance with near death in aviation history. But that landing only takes about 15 minutes of the film; the rest of the film is taken up with the investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board witch hunters, who didn’t think the whole thing was necessary.

There are many minutes of Hanks waiting in hallways, staring out of hotel windows and having nightmares about how, if he had decided to try and land back at La Guardia, he would have landed in Times Square, possibly ending his career and “The Lion King’s” longest running record on Broadway.

The movie, a good one but not great, is too long for my taste. It nevertheless survives the NTSB’s boring interrogation and turns out to be a genuine nail biter, even though we know how well it turned out.

You can thank Tom Hanks for that. Tom never lets us down. He is just as much Capt. Sullenberger as he was Capt. Phillips and Forrest Gump, Joe in “Joe Versus the Volcano” and Charlie Wilson in “Charlie Wilson’s War.” He only let us down once in the dreadful 2012 “Cloud Atlas.” We forgive him because he was so brilliant and heart breaking as the dying Andrew Beckett in Jonathan Demme’s incredible “Philadelphia.”

Aaron Eckhart plays Jeff Skiles, Sullenberger’s co-pilot, in the now-famous Eckhart stone-faced style. The always very good and always miscast and overlooked Laura Linney is thrown away as Sully’s wife, who has little to do but walk around the house waiting for her husband to come home and dry off.

“Sully” works for 36 minutes as a thriller, but for the other hour as a television movie of the week. I think we can blame director Clint Eastwood for this. Eastwood, once famous for “Spaghetti Westerns,” is now dabbling in Republican politics.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor and the author of “Will Write For Food.”

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