Jim's Blog: Observations and Perspectives

Thinking About Sully


Rare Occurrence

Going to the movies is a very rare occurrence in the Holmes family. We do enjoy watching some DVDs, and some are definite favorites, but we’ve only sat in front of the big screen twice since moving to the USA. Once was when we were given tickets, and we went to see (and very much enjoyed) Paddington Bear—so well animated, and with such a good sense of setting in the UK.

The other time was just a week or two ago. Ever since 2009 when US Airlines 1549 went down in the Hudson just brief minutes after encountering a bird-strike that crippled both of its engines, my son Matthew and I were fascinated by the idea of a plane coming down in the Hudson in full view of the skyscrapers of Manhattan. We watched several YouTube reconstructions making use of simulations. So, when Matthew announced earlier this year that Clint Eastwood was directing a movie along the lines of a documentary on the well-fated flight, we decided it had to go on the “must see” list.

The film was even more gripping than I had expected it to be. It captures well the ambience of La Guardia airport, Manhattan, and the atmosphere of the Airbus A320 (I’ve flown on quite a few of them in recent years).

The flashbacks or imaginary scenarios that play out in the mind of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks) are realistic in the drama and tension that they convey.

At the time of the incident on which the film was based took place, we were living in the UK. News coverage was extensive, and praise for the pilot and crew was widespread. The film explores the events from a different perspective—how Sully was challenged that he made the wrong decision to ditch the plane in the Hudson river—and that makes for good movie watching.

Character development is about as good as a movie will allow it to be. Not a lot can be achieved in just 90 minutes (and in that respect, I somewhat prefer the power of the written word). Nevertheless, the film is both engaging and actually quite gripping. It’s a DVD we agreed we would like to purchase when it comes on sale and can be purchased for a discount!

Things to Think About

What’s the takeaway, you may ask? We thought of the following points:

Great for suspense; life does keep us guessing at times

Excellent for atmosphere—the visuals are consistently good, and any viewer who has been to New York city in the winter will likely vouch for its sense of authenticity

Super special effects; the bird strike and water landing scenes make for very good viewing

Something very real but harder to express: capturing of the spirit of New Yorkers—ordinary people about their day-to-day business who divert course without a moment’s notice to come to the aid of the stricken plane and its occupants; Thank God for common grace!

A Real Story

And there is one final thought: this story is, at heart, a real story. We typically read and measure life through our own experience. We do better to measure life through the lens of the Word of God, the Bible. At the time of the event in 2008, the media often referred to it as the miracle on the Hudson. A miracle (in biblical terms) is generally considered to be an exceptional and direct act of God. I’d not go as far as to call the water landing a miracle (as it was entirely within the parameters of ordinary physical possibilities), but I have no difficulty in considering it an exceptional providence of God, a remarkable display of His singular care for the people of the city (and on the aircraft) in working out the details as He did. Of course he could have kept the birds out of the way in the first place. But it pleased Him to so work events that the soundness of the aircraft and its residual and still operative mechanical and electronic systems, the skill of the crew, and the actions of others, notably air traffic controllers and ground crews, were able to ensure the safety of all concerned.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being,” the Scriptures state (Acts 17:28). He gives to us life and breath and all things, determining not only the beginning and end of our lives, but everything that takes place along the way. The message of Paul to the men of Mars Hill (see Acts 17:15-34) makes for good reading, especially in our postmodern times.

Image Credit: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549#/media/File:Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_(crop).jpg. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)


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