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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sully is a fact-based drama starring Tom Hanks as U.S. Airways Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot of the 2009's "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency water landing. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie's themes include teamwork, compassion, and courage. It also has some swearing ("s--t," "ass"), mostly said in tense circumstances, as well as one "f--king" in regards to the weather. Violence isn't graphic but does include frightening, tense scenes of the landing, with passengers screaming, panicking, and more. There are also a couple of post-traumatic nightmares in which Sully envisions crashing into NYC buildings instead of safely in the Hudson (these disturbing scenes could remind some viewers of 9/11). A bar that names a drink after Sully has some over-served/drunk patrons.
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What's the story?
SULLY is a docudrama about the well-publicized events leading up to the day in early 2009 when U.S. Airways pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) made a dramatic emergency water landing in the Hudson River. Although the landing was publicized as a crash, putting down in the river was the only way that Sully and his co-pilot, Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), could land without crashing after a flock of geese struck their plane and disabled both engines shortly after take-off. The movie's dramatic tension revolves around Sully's post-traumatic stress, as he wonders whether he did the right thing in the wake of the National Transportation Safety Board's insistence that computer simulations of the same conditions showed that he could have landed the plane at two different nearby airports. Meanwhile, the media brands Sully a hero for the ages after the "Miracle on the Hudson" resulted in zero fatalities for the 155 passengers and crew on board the Airbus A320.
Is it any good?
Hanks delivers a winning performance as in Eastwood's thoughtful tribute to Sully's courage and humble heroism. Once again, the double Academy Award winner reminds audiences why he's one of the best actors of his generation, fully immersing himself in the role of a man with quiet confidence in his four decades of piloting experience and expertise in Airbus safety. Utterly believable in Sully, both physically (that silver hair!) and expressively, Hanks shares a brotherly chemistry with co-star Eckhart, who looks authentically tortured, relieved, and amazed at the fact that they successfully landed the plane without any of the 155 people onboard being seriously hurt.
Although the story occasionally feels a bit padded -- for example, the phone calls between Sully and his wife, Evelyn (Laura Linney), start to feel repetitive -- it's impossible to deny the story's compelling nature and how extraordinary the captain's triumphant landing is in the history of aviation. Unlike Flight, which follows a fictional pilot's fall from grace when it's discovered he's an alcoholic and drug addict, the very real Sully is refreshingly free of that sort of character-staining back story. Even the temporary villains of the story -- NTSB officials led by Mike O'Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan -- can't stop the truth from prevailing: Sully is a hero for our time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Sully and the popularity of real-life hero stories. What's the movie's message about Captain Sully and what it means to be a hero/act heroically? Do you think there might be a downside to being a public hero? If so, what?
How did the plane crash sequence affect you? Was it realistic? Do different kinds of movie violence affect kids differently?
Which characters in the movie do you consider role models? Why? How do they demonstrate courage, compassion, and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths? How does Sully's character position him to be a hero? Did he consider himself that way?
Parents, if kids are worried about planes being taken down by birds, reassure them that the odds of an accident like the one in the movie are very low. Talk about the many measures in place to ensure that air travel is safe.
- In theaters: September 9, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2016
- Cast: Tom Hanks, Anna Gunn, Laura Linney
- Director: Clint Eastwood
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some peril and brief strong language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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