Sully Information

Sully is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed and produced by Clint Eastwood and written by Todd Komarnicki, based on the autobiography Highest Duty by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Zaslow. The film stars Tom Hanks as Sullenberger, with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Autumn Reeser, Holt McCallany, Jamey Sheridan and Jerry Ferrara in supporting roles. The film follows Sullenberger's January 2009 emergency landing of a commuter jet on the Hudson River, which all 155 passengers and crew survived with only minor injuries, and the subsequent publicity and investigation.

Sully premiered at the 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016, and was released in the United States by Warner Bros. on September 9, 2016, in conventional and IMAX theaters. The film received positive reviews from critics and has grossed $126 million worldwide, but stoked controversy in its portrayal of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).


On January 15, 2009, US Airways pilots Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles board US Airways Flight 1549 from LaGuardia Airport en route to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, taking off within minutes. Barely three minutes into the flight, at an approximate altitude of 2,800 feet (approx. 850 m), the Airbus A320 hits a flock of Canadian geese, disabling both engines. Without engine power or any airports within a safe distance, Teterboro Airport being the closest, Sully decides to ditch the aircraft on the Hudson River. Sullenberger manages to land the aircraft in the Hudson without any casualties. The press and public immediately hail him as a hero, but the experience leaves him with PTSD, repeatedly envisioning the plane crashing into a building.

Afterwards, Sullenberger learns that preliminary data reports from ACARS suggest that the left engine was still running at idle. Theoretically, this would have left Sullenberger with enough power to return to LaGuardia or land at Teterboro. Furthermore, the board of inquiry claims that several confidential flight simulations created from all available data conclude that the plane could have been able to safely land at either airport even with both engines disabled. Sullenberger, however, maintains that he lost both engines, which left him without sufficient time, speed, or altitude to safely land at any airport.

Sullenberger realizes that the NTSB is angling to have the accident deemed pilot error, which would effectively end his career. In a bid to save his reputation, he arranges to have the simulator pilots available for live demonstrations at the public hearing on the accident. When both simulations land successfully, Sullenberger counters that the simulations were unrealistic because the pilots immediately knew what actions to take, thus removing the human factor. When pressed, the inquiry board admits that the simulator pilots were allowed multiple practice sessions (17 in one case) prior to the successful airport landing simulations shown at the hearing.

Conceding Sullenberger's point, the inquiry board orders these simulations reflown to include a 35-second pause after the bird strikes before any emergency diversions are attempted. This interval approximated the amount of time that real-life pilots would have needed to assess their situation and attempt unsuccessfully to restart failed engines, as Sullenberger and Skiles in fact did. In contrast, the pilots in the successful simulator restagings diverted instantly to LaGuardia or Teterboro upon loss of engine thrust, thus rendering these forensic restagings inaccurate. When revised accordingly, the LaGuardia simulation ends with the simulated flight plowing through the lead-in lights short of the runway, and the Teterboro simulation with the flight crashing into a building short of the airport.

After a short break, the board of inquiry reveals that the left engine has been recovered from the Hudson River, showing indisputable signs that it was completely destroyed by the bird strikes. In light of these findings, the National Transportation Safety Board officially finds that the loss of US Airways Flight 1549 was unavoidable, and that Sullenberger acted correctly in performing the single viable option available to him as pilot in command to save the lives of all aboard. The final comment of the film was the board asking First Officer Skiles if he would have done anything different. Skiles replies: "I would have done it in July."

The end credits feature a reunion montage of the real passengers and crew of Flight 1549 at the Carolinas Aviation Museum, where the accident aircraft is on display.



The movie is based on Sully's autobiography Highest Duty, whose rights were acquired in 2010. From the start, Sullenberger wanted the film to encompass "that sense of our common humanity" as a recurring theme, noting that the events depicted in the film took place shortly after 2008's Great Recession. Sullenberger explains: "People were wondering if everything was about self-interest and greed. They were doubting human nature. Then all these people acted together, selflessly, to get something really important done. In a way, I think it gave everyone a chance to have hope, at a time when we all needed it."

By June 2015, it was reported that Tom Hanks was already in talks to play the lead role of Sullenberger. Much of the rest of the cast was announced in that August (with Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Holt McCallany, and Jamey Sheridan joining), September (Jerry Ferarra), and October (Max Adler, Sam Huntington, and Wayne Bastrup).

Principal photography on the film began on September 28, 2015 in New York City. On October 15, filming started in Atlanta, where a building in downtown Atlanta was transformed into a NYC hotel. Filming took place in North Carolina, Los Angeles, Holloman AFB, New Mexico and Kearny, New Jersey and concluded on April 29, 2016. This film was shot almost entirely with IMAX cameras.


Sully premiered at the 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival on September 2, 2016 and was released in the United States in conventional and IMAX theaters on September 9, 2016 by Warner Bros. When deciding where to release the film on the 2016 release calendar, Warner Bros. executives began circling the first weekend after Labor Day considering most adult fall dramas don't begin opening until later in September or October, after summer. However, this would mean that the film's release would have to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Warner Bros. executives grew wary and spent a lot of time thinking if the release date would hurt the film's box office opening performance since the film contains a dream sequence in which the plane crashed into Manhattan skyscrapers (almost similar to the planes that crashed the World Trade Center). But Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein and his team nevertheless decided to release the film in that corner because "Sully is a story of hope and a real hero who did his job." According to the film's screenwriter, Todd Komarnicki, however, the release date was coincidental rather than pre-planned and attributed it to the box-office logistics due mainly to limited availability of securing IMAX screens, since such screens usually get booked by tent-pole films in the summer and by Star Wars films during Christmas time, with reference being made to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which is set to open in December 2016.


Box office

, Sully has grossed $92.4 million in North America and $24.3 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $116.7 million, against a budget of $60 million. It broke the September record for biggest global IMAX opening for a 2D film with $5.1 million from 523 IMAX screens, eclipsing the previous record held by The Maze Runner ($4.2 million in 2014). In total it had grossed $10 million in IMAX plays globally.

In the United States and Canada, Sully was released on Friday, September 9, 2016, across 3,525 theaters, of which 375 theaters were in IMAX, and was initially projected to make around $25 million in its opening weekend, with Box Office Mojo projecting as high as $31 million due to its large theater count and the film's positioning. Box office trackers were expecting Sully to launch in the same range as two titles: Hanks' 2013 hostage drama Captain Phillips, which opened with $25.7 million, and the 2012 airline drama Flight, which debuted to $24.9 million. The film is opening on the weekend after the Labor Day weekend, which has proven to be a lackluster period of time for a film to accrue large revenue. But noted that this doesn't apply to every film released around this corner and it depends more on the type of film. Sully was one of the four wide releases of the weekend. According to ticket selling website Fandango, the film outsold Hanks' previous film, Bridge of Spies, in advance ticket sales. It earned $1.35 million from Thursday previews at 2,700 theaters, which marked the biggest of Hanks' career. Box Office Mojo deemed it a strong number considering that it coincided with the first NFL game of the regular season. On its opening day it made $12.2 million (including Thursday previews), of which $1.3 million came from IMAX screenings, increasing weekend projections to $35 million. It is the second-biggest Friday ever for a wide Eastwood opening (as both an actor or director), trailing behind only the $30 million opening day of American Sniper. In total it grossed $35 million in its opening weekend, which was one of the top five September openings of all-time (12th after inflation). The debut is the second-biggest wide release opening for an Eastwood movie (acting or directing) ever, behind the $89 million wide debut of American Sniper and Hanks' third-biggest live-action debut ever (not accounting for inflation) behind The Da Vinci Code ($77 million in 2006) and Angels & Demons ($46 million in 2009). It also performed exceptionally well in IMAX, having been entirely shot in IMAX. For the weekend alone, it brought in a record-breaking $4 million from 375 IMAX auditoriums, which is 11% of the total weekend gross. This broke the previous September record held by The Equalizer, which totalled $3.1 million in 2014.

Following its first place finish, the film continued to dominate the box office by experiencing a gradual decline of only 37% to post $22 million in its second weekend, all this despite the influx of competition from three new wide releases: Blair Witch, Bridget Jones's Baby and Snowden.

Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow were thrilled by Sullys results, as were theater owners as September - especially post-Labor Day weekend - tends to be the time of the year when studios witness a fall in box office performance due to the re-opening of schools and colleges (after the summer break) and the heavily marketed arrival of new television shows. Scott Mendelson of Forbes magazine highlighted that the film will have the potential to stay long enough in theaters to pass the $100 million threshold since Tom Hanks' films tends to be leggy and post big multiples and the film is aimed at older audiences who don't usually flock in theaters in its opening weekend. pointed out that the marketing effort was the apex achievement behind the film's robust opening (other than good reviews and positive word of mouth), despite the social media absence of both Eastwood and Hanks. The film was released during the 15th anniversary of the infamous September 11 attacks but Warner Bros. domestic distribution chief Jeff Goldstein said that the anniversary did not have a big impact one way or the other. According to comScore audience survey results, 82% of the film's moviegoers were older than 25, 80% were above 35 and women comprised 56% of the opening weekend. 39% said Hanks was their primary reason for seeing it.

Outside North America, the film opened across 39 countries simultaneously with its domestic debut and grossed an estimated $10.5 million on roughly 3,631 screens. IMAX comprised $1.1 million of that from 148 IMAX screens. It scored the biggest opening of any Eastwood film in Russia with $1 million, although it was No. 3 for the weekend there behind Ben-Hur and Sausage Party; also in the UAE with $1 million; and the second biggest in Australia with $2.4 million where it had the advantage of opening amidst Father's Day. It was released in Hong Kong during the Mid-Autumn Festival and to take advantage of the festival. This resulted in a first place finish at the box office with $777,000. In Japan, it scored the third biggest opening for Eastwood with $2.3 million, behind American Sniper and Letters from Iwo Jima. It still has a handful of markets to open in the months to come inclduing South Korea on September 28 (although previews has begun with $363,000 per local reports).

Critical response

Sully has received positive reviews from critics with praise going to Hanks' performance and Eastwood's direction. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83%, based on 200 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "As comfortingly workmanlike as its protagonist, Sully makes solid use of typically superlative work from its star and director to deliver a quietly stirring tribute to an everyday hero." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average to reviews, the film has a score of 74 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, according to CinemaScore polls.

Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a positive review, praising Hanks and saying, "This is Hanks"? show, and he delivers a typically strong performance, quickly allowing us to forget that we"?re watching an actor. With his snowy white hair and moustache to match, Hanks conveys a man confident in his abilities, yet humble in his actions, which could also be said of Eastwood as a director." Influx Magazine film critic Steve Pulaski gave the film a B+ and said, "Clint Eastwood's Sully works to detail this kind of undeniable heroism, not by tinseling the fact nor reminding us that, had this not been a true story, we'd all be calling this film incredulous, but on the souls that had to suffer through the pervasive reporting and imminent trial." IGN reviewer Simon Thompson awarded 9/10, writing: "Sully is a beautifully balanced, classily nuanced and hugely engaging film that avoids all the clichd pitfalls it could have slipped into. Tom Hanks gives one of the best performances of his career and Clint Eastwood"?s direction is beautiful and rich. It"?s not just a great movie, Sully is one of the best pieces of cinema that a major Hollywood studio has released this year." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times praised both the film and Eastwood's direction, saying the film is "economical and solid, and generally low-key when it"?s not freaking you out."

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film by calling it, "[A] vigorous and involving salute to professionalism and being good at your job". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised the film by giving 3.5 out of 4 stars and wrote, "the movie earns your attention and respect by digging deep, by finding the fear and self-doubt inside a man who'd never accept being defined as a hero. It's an eye-opener." Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded it 4 out of 4 stars, praising the film as "an absolute triumph" and saying that Hanks "delivers another in a long line of memorable, nomination-worthy performances."

In a negative review, John Anderson of Time wrote, "Inevitable is how Sully feels. That, and a little soggy, given that the storyline is rooted not in the few seconds of Sullenberger"?s defining act of heroism, but in the way his conscience, and the National Transportation Safety Board, plagued him in its aftermath."


Depiction of NTSB investigators

The film generated controversy surrounding its depiction of the National Transportation Safety Board as "prosecutorial and closed-minded". In a promotional video preceding the film's release, director Clint Eastwood claimed that the NTSB was "railroading" Sullenberger and "was trying to paint the picture that he had done the wrong thing." Upon the film's release, NTSB investigators objected to the film's portrayal of them as inaccurate. After reviewing the factual record and viewing the film, Christine Negroni wrote in The New York Times that "the film"?s version of the inquiry veers from the official record in both tone and substance" and "depicts the investigators as departing from standard protocol in airline accident inquiries." NTSB lead investigator John Balzano disputed the film's depiction, saying that investigators "weren't out to embarrass anybody at all", and a former NTSB investigator also expressed concern that the depiction would be taken by moviegoers as evidence of "government incompetence".

Stephen Cass, writing in the left-leaning UK paper The Guardian, declared that "In depicting government investigators as petty and clueless, the Hudson plane crash film trumpets a libertarian worldview at the expense of passenger safety", noting that "It"?s not hard to see why this tack appealed to strident libertarian Eastwood" and explaining that

In an interview about the controversy, actor Tom Hanks told the Associated Press that Sullenberger reviewed an early draft of the film's script, which identified NTSB investigators in the story by their real names, and asked that the investigators' names be removed. According to Hanks, Sullenberger felt that the real-life investigators "were not prosecutors" and it was not fair to associate them with changes in the story depicting "more of a prosecutorial process."

Breach of contract allegations

On July 8, 2016, a lawsuit was filed at Los Angeles County Superior Court by a film's consultant named Scott Heger against Warner Bros. Entertainment, Kiki Tree Pictures and producer Tim Moore for breach of oral contract, fraud and labor code violations. The plaintiff claimed Warner declined to pay Heger because he didn't have a written contract and his services were rolled into the airplane procurement agreements with Blair Adhesive Products. In addition, the plaintiff also claimed the producers threatened to "blacklist" him if he sued.

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