Eastwood as Sully; Hanks as Eastwood

DATELINE:  High & Mighty


This film is not Airport, nor Airplane.  It’s a true story, ripped from the headlines, as they say, that dumbfounded a national watching on television. The pilot was a white-haired gentleman named Sully.

Sully is no John Wayne flying through hell and back. He is more like Tom Hanks. Twenty years ago, he would have been played by Clint Eastwood. Now Eastwood only directs the scenes. Eastwood would have given us laconic and stoical heroism, and now he can only direct it.

This film does not soar, and its wings have been clipped to 90 odd minutes, which suits us fine. Clint appears to have selected this project to deal with the irritating issue of the difference between connotation and denotation.

He grapples with terms like “hero,” that the NTSB dismisses, or “timing” that seems to indicate the wrong man and the moment mean catastrophe, or the difference between crash landing and “water landing,” as Captain Chesley Sullenberg calls it.

Tom Hanks is not John Wayne. The heroics here are from a white-haired man at the end of his career, cool and professional. Another actor might have used the swagger of an earlier generation of actors. That would not have worked. A lesser man would have tried to land at an airport—and New York would have another nightmare of a passenger jet smashing into skyscrapers

Re-living the event a half-dozen times is standard in the media dominated age when overkill coverage of tragedy and heroism comes in endless replays.

What we have here is old-fashioned values in modern dress.