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Topic: Music and Movies
Number of pages / Number of words: 9 / 2442
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Sully is the name of a pilot, who achieved worldwide fame and recognition for his skillful emergency landing on the Hudson River. It might have been a huge catastrophe in New York, killing thousands of people, equal in the scale to the terrorist attack of 9/11. However, a quick reaction, accurate thinking and high level of professionalism of the pilot helped him to make a miraculous safe landing on the river with 155 survived passengers and the crew on board. The event was illustrated in the movie Sully. Tom Hanks playing the pilot Sullenberger, demonstrated deep emotions, and relevant behavior of a hero, who saved hundreds of people, making a miracle on the Hudson River a part of honorable history. A movie’s reflection of the event was historically accurate as much as possible, almost without any significant modifications. Thus, the movie can be used as a useful material representing a historical memory, since it does not contain sufficient changes.

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History and Movie

The incident that happened in New York acquired the title A Miracle on the Hudson. It was a really miraculous landing of Flight 1549 of US Airways on the freezing water since the event took place on January 15, 2009 (Langewiesche). The plane took off form the LaGuardia Airport in New York with 150 passengers and 5 members of the crew. In 5 minutes, the plane landed on the cold water of the Hudson River as a result of the collapse of both engines. The reason for the problems was the flock of birds flying about 3,000 feet over the Bronx (Langewiesche). All the passengers were saved, although some people got slightly injured, and the flight attendant damaged her leg. Evidently, a 57-years old captain Chesley Sullenberger made a successful landing on Hudson due to his skillfulness and 42 years of professional experience.

The event inspired Hollywood’s famous actor and director to dedicate a film to the person, who saved numerous people and made a real miracle in New York. It is a biographical movie known as Sully, which stands for the name of Sullenberger. Clint Eastwood depicted a dramatic story of a pilot, who left an unforgettable imprint in history. The contribution of the filmmakers is fundamental because the accurate information of the movie can be applied as a brilliant way of preserving historical memory. Of course, the film contains many changes and modifications with the purpose of making it more appropriate for viewing and understanding. Nevertheless, the producer took into consideration almost all the details, which have to be respected and honored concerning the historic event.

Comparison of Movie and the Incident

In fact, the film is historically accurate since the authors of the movie did not use significant changes and preserved the original idea, details, and even the atmosphere. However, it is possible to mention several issues, which have been replaced. In addition, the incident was not presented as a miracle but as an effort of a pilot and a crew. The tragedy might have occurred because of the birds – Canadian Geese. It is widely known that the birds are a serious threat to the passing planes. Nevertheless, the situation was not taken seriously. William Langewiesche provided some information concerning an investigation, which confirmed that a huge fleet of the birds ought to have been noticed and the flight ought to be delayed because of an unusually huge flock of the geese. This idea was not included in the film. By contrast, the major attention was focused on the doubtful landing of the pilot. In any case, Clint Eastwood did all the best to make the film as close to reality as possible choosing the characters that were similar to the real heroes.


All the main characters of the movie have their real prototypes, which are very similar in appearance. It is quite an interesting idea of the filmmakers to maximize the historical accuracy with the help of the main characters. Co-pilot Jeff Skiles and the actor performing his role obviously have identical features, including their hair color, hairdressing, costumes and even the manner of their behavior that were simulated. The ferryboat captain played himself. Although the crew did everything to calm down the passengers, they experienced a critical attack of panic, climbing through the seats and calling for their relatives. The problem was that the windows were in the water and passengers thought that they moved under the water. However, this aspect was not appropriately depicted because of significant subtraction. Evidently, the viewers of the film can observe the panics but it is not as acute as it was in reality because of the misunderstanding of people. The witnesses inform that some passengers jumped into freezing water trying to swim away from the plane; however, they had approximately 24 minutes (McFadden). The filmmakers omitted some information in order to stress more essential facts.

The captain Sullenberger stayed in the plane until the last passenger left the machine. It was a very important aspect of his heroic behavior. The attitude of Sully towards the crew and passengers and his responsibility, in general, are the specific elements of the movie. The true historic fact confirms that the pilot walks along with the cabin twice making sure that all people have left the plane. In a few years after the miracle on the Hudson River, Patrick J. Kiger admitted that people had forgotten the hero who spent in the air more than 20,000 hours in the course of 30 years of professional practice. Nevertheless, he will remain in aviation history and in the memory of people with the help of the movie, which underlines the most important aspects of his reaction. In addition, the filmmakers illustrated Sullenberger’s experience as a result of posttraumatic stress disorder. In January 2009, CNN informed that “Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger says he'll take to the skies again -- as soon as he can shake Flight 1549 out of his head.” It is necessary to admit that Sully tried to be strong morally and physically, though he was injured along with other people on the plane, and this aspect was covered in the movie.

The emergency landing together with the entire flight took less than five minutes but it was enough to make people experience complicated emotional and physical traumas. The film is as accurate as possible concerning this issue, since it illustrates and confirms several times the number of passengers, crew and the nature of damages. The passengers had hypothermia since the water of the Hudson River was icy in January. A flight attendant damaged her leg and it was the only person on the plane, who got the most serious injury. The report informed that 78 passengers had minor traumas and injuries. However, the most important fact was that all of them stayed alive (National Transportation Safety Board). It can be explained by the decision to land the plane.

The manner of the emergency landing was depicted in the movie with the highest accuracy. Evidently, the spectators of the movie can observe the way the pilot landed the machine on the water and it seems as easy as he made it. The filmmakers did not underline the idea of a miracle, as the event was not actually miraculous but rather a skillful achievement of the pilots. It was an alternative to make a landing in the Teterboro or to fly back to LaGuardia. However, the pilot landed on the Hudson River, because he found the alternatives impossible. Certainly, that idea was also presented in the film. However, Clint Eastwood did not take into consideration a skillful landing, as the plane had to turn at a certain perfect angle and speed. It is the only thing the film did not cover from the historical perspective.

The manner of the landing and damages are accurately illustrated in the movie, confirming the actual event. Both engines collapsed during the first minutes of the flight and the pilot had only 208 seconds to safely land the plane. During that time, the machine lost one engine in the river and the inspectors were not sure that both engines were broken by the birds’ strike. The film covered this aspect and made the spectators feel excited concerning the pilot because he felt some doubt whether he had made the right decision. However, in reality, Sully was quite sure that the alternatives could have provoked a catastrophe killing thousands of people in the town and onboard the plane. Further investigation and the relevant reflection of the event in the movie researched the issue.

The film Sully confirmed the idea that the captain made the right choice, though it took more than a year to prove the fact. However, it is one of the most essential differences between history and the movie. The period was chosen for the film with the intention to make it easier for consideration and understanding since it is hard to realize that a person who has made a miraculous safe landing on the water and saved more than 150 people on board the plane could be prosecuted. Nevertheless, the report of the commission made a historic conclusion admitted in the film: “The captain’s decision to ditch on the Hudson River rather than attempting to land at an airport provided the highest probability that the accident would be survivable” (National Transportation Safety Board 120). Naturally, the film omitted the fact that the general experience of the crew, high professionalism of the pilot, work of the engineers, and the general construction of the plane were significant as well.

Nevertheless, the Transportation Safety Board researched a dozen of emergency situations, which confirmed the right choice to land on the river. The majority of them did not take into account the human factor as well, as the film illustrated. In any case, the convictions against the pilot Sullenberger were not as strict as it was depicted. The Chesley Sullenberger demanded to change all the names in the movie since it could be a threat to the safety board members. However, any film should have a protagonist or several of them. Thus, three main characters from the safety board could not be directly associated with real people. The movie should contain some collisions in order to create an interesting plot.

Consequences and Private Life

Naturally, the event on the Hudson River is not related to the private life of the crew and the majority of them were left unknown. Sully is an exception, and Clint Eastwood dedicated many scenes to the biographical aspects of Sullenberger’s life and his relations with the family. At the beginning of the movie, it seemed that he had some issues with his wife. However, the spectators can admire the way the man worried about his family being involved in a serious problem of the crash investigation. Mining of wife in the movie and in the real-life of the pilot is obvious, as she gave him essential support. Thus, the emotional aspect was a significant detail for the biographical drama. Sully and his wife have two daughters mentioned in the movie. They all experienced strong pressure from the media. It was the reason of some tension between the couple. Nevertheless, they managed to overcome it.

The role of the media in the movie has a separate indistinct role. Although during the real historical event the pilot who had landed the plane achieved general respect and recognition, the movie showed the uncertain attitude of the media to the event. The real hero was invited to the presidential inauguration and many media companies interviewed him and admitted his heroic act and high professionalism. The film depicted the event form the other perspective. Some media companies are presented as protagonists as well. It caused an impression of the viewers that the hero started to worry about his mental ability to analyze whether he had made the right decision. Moreover, it made the spectators doubtful in regard to the miraculous historic event. Such alternation of the conceptions in the movie has made the historic event confusing, though that issue was necessary for the film content.


Thus, the film Sully reflected the historic event with the highest level of historical accuracy. However, the filmmakers applied some modifications with the purpose of making the movie more appropriate for the spectators and more interesting, and with the goal to preserve some real-life people from the threat. Those modifications were made in response to the desire of the crew and Sullenberger in particular. The captain insisted on changing some heroes and names and replacing real personalities by the imaginary characters. The value of personal life and safety was an additional reason to make some insignificant changes in the movie concerning the work of the National Transportation Safety Board. Naturally, the role of the entire crew and the construction of the plane were omitted in response to the desire to create a biographical movie, confirming the unique professionalism of Sully. In general, many other modifications were almost insignificant and were made with the intention to make the movie more interesting and unpredictable.


Taking into consideration all the given aspects of the movie, it is necessary to assume that the film can be used as a tool for preserving historical memory. Its limitations are rather insignificant since the movie illustrates the most essential details. Although the filmmakers made some changes, they did not have any historical importance. Thus, the movie confirmed the emergency landing, which should be respected and honored as a part of not only the history of national aviation but also the life of citizens. It is necessary to admit the successful depiction of the Hudson Miracle with the consideration of all moral and ethical issues, which confirmed wide possibilities as to how to employ the movie.


The event that happened in January 2009 might have become a huge catastrophe, killing not only the passengers of the plane but also thousands of citizens in the city. However, captain Chesley Sullenberger known as Sully saved 150 passengers and the crew of the plane by landing the plane on the Hudson River due to his high professionalism. The filmmakers provided a historically accurate depiction of the incident in the movie Sully. The film did not contain sufficient changes and did not alter the true cause. However, the producers substituted the names and the members of the Safety Board in response to the captain’s demands. Evidently, the movie can be used as a source of historical information and as a tool for preserving historical memory. Its limitations are rather insignificant since it is an excellent biographical drama without any controversial issues, which could violate personal life or safety. Thus, the film is an essential source of information concerning the Hudson Miracle.

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