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Clint Eastwood’s heart pounding recreation of the Miracle on the Hudson is only one of the rewards of this earnest, slyly emotional biography.

Probably most of us remember that January 15th, when Captain “Sully” Sullenberger landed his disabled plane on the icy Hudson River, saving all 155 aboard. We may not be as aware of the literal trials and tribulations that followed in that events’ wake. Sully was toasted as a hero, everybody wanted a piece of him, including the NTSB, which led the rather contentious investigation of the incident afterward.

Much of that takes up much of the efficient 96 minute running time and it’s the least compelling part of this unique story. We know the guys behind that big desk questioning our hero are bad guys: they might as well be wearing black hats. What’s more effective are the landing scenes (arm chair gripping and for sure not for those who already fear flying) and a few key performances. The wonderful Laura Linney pulls us in, even though she’s relegated to a few scenes she may have shot over a couple of days or hours. Aaron Eckhart is spot on as a bravado type co-pilot, but it’s Tom Hanks who, dependably, quietly conveys the integrity and strength of this most extraordinary Captain.

Eastwood also takes great pains to remind us of the others who played such an integral part in making this “miracle” happen. It is very moving to see not just the professional rescuers, flight attendants and control tower workers perform heroic actions of their own, but how about those amazing ferry boat operators, speeding to the scene and, through the most wonderfully thick New York accents, assuring soaked passengers no one was going to die today?

It is not without a wink, I’m sure, both Eastwood and Sullenberger want to include a not so undeniable message. Respect is owed to people who know their job and do it well. With this movie, respect is paid.

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