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Eastwood’s “Sully” soars onto 4K Ultra HD

Updated: Apr 13, 2019


Tom Hanks stars as Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger who made a death-defying water landing, saving 155 souls on US Airways Flight 1549. (4K frame shots courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital Copy, 2016, PG-13 for some peril and brief strong language; streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: "Sully Sullenberger: The Man Behind the Miracle"

THE WORLD saw the image – dozens of passengers standing pressed together on the wings of a jetliner floating on New York's Hudson River.

No one could miss the "Miracle on the Hudson" in the winter of 2009 when Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger made a death-defying water landing, saving 155 souls on US Airways Flight 1549.

The near-disaster unfolded just 100 seconds after takeoff, when a flock of Canada geese, eight to 10 pounds each, struck the Airbus heading to Charlotte, N.C., out of LaGuardia Airport. Both engines immediately lost thrust. "Within the first few seconds, we knew it was gonna be one those events that divides one's life into before and after," Sully Sullenberger says in the featurette, "The Man behind the Miracle." He had been a commercial pilot for 29 years, flying since he was 16, with 20,000 logged hours including missions over Vietnam piloting an Air Force F-4 Phantom.

The morning after the emergency landing Capt. Sullenberger suffers flashbacks and "What if" moments ...

... if the Airbus had crashed into Manhattan buildings.

Capt. Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles have their first meeting with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The media circus surrounding the "Miracle on the Hudson."

Director Clint Eastwood, at the ripe old age of 86, continues to be one of Hollywood's best. He has orchestrated a concise, straightforward thriller starring two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks as the modest and courageous captain, who describes himself as "just a man who was doing his job." Aaron Eckhart plays the capable first officer Jeff Skiles, who was at the controls when the birds hit. Laura Linney plays Sully's dedicated wife, Lorraine.

Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki keep the story to a brisk 96 minutes. The film opens with a horrifying nightmare; Sully dreams that he's crashing the airliner, shades of 9/11, into the Manhattan skyline. The plot concerns how the National Transportation Safety Board built a case against Sully, second-guessing his decision to land in the river. They intend to prove, via flight simulator data, that he could've saved the passengers and aircraft by returning to LaGuardia or to a nearby New Jersey airport. The actual accident sequence is buried deep in the second act.


The Blu-ray disc includes three featurettes of interviews and behind-scenes footage. Sully and Skiles give a riveting, first-person account of the January 15th flight. "I remember my attention being drawn to something that was just above my eyesight," Skiles says. They had just retracted the landing gear and completed the takeoff checklist. Sully next yelled, "Birds!"

"Immediately, I could hear terrible noises and I could smell the burning bird odor from the engines coming into the cabin air," Sully recalls.

As the captain landed the jetliner on the water, "It seemed like the nose was going right for the bottom," Skiles says. "Water cascaded up on the windshield. But then, almost instantly, it just popped up."

Both engines of the Airbus lost thrust after the bird strike.

An air traffic controller communicates with Flight 1549, clearing a path back to LaGuardia Airport. Capt. Sullenberger says, "We may ended up in the Hudson."

The passengers lineup on the wings of the Airbus A320-214. The scene was captured in a water tank in California and digitally assembled and rendered in 4K with footage from the Hudson River.

Lorraine talks about the physical and mental challenges that affected the whole family, including their teenage daughters. They suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for over a year.

Eastwood explains how he persuaded producers that he was the only director possible for the job. During his days in the U.S. Army, he snagged a ride on a Navy aircraft that was forced down into the Pacific Ocean off the California coast during bad weather. He and the pilot survived by swimming several miles in the 50-degree water to the shoreline north of San Francisco, producer Allyn Stewart says.

The production submerged a full-size Airbus 320 into a water tank at Universal Studios to film as the river rushed inside, as well as tight shots on the wings as passengers and crew awaited rescue. Eastwood always keeps multiple cameras rolling on what's considered the quietest set in Hollywood. He never says, "Action" or "Cut," just keeps his hand moving to symbolize rolling cameras, while he eases actors into the sweet spot of a scene.


Here's what makes this 4K Ultra HD a GOT TO HAVE!

Eastwood and his go-to cinematographer Tom Stern, on their 13th collaboration, opted to use the new IMAX model 6.5K Alexa digital cameras, which features the new large-format digital chip. The results are extremely lifelike. In the cockpit, as Sully scans the horizon to determine his options, we can pick out the smallest detail from hundreds of buildings over Manhattan. Eastwood also mastered "Sully" in 4K, which retains the majority of its incredible original pixel count. The CGI was also rendered in 4K to insure seamless visuals. From start to finish, the 4K Ultra HD disc has the best sharpness of the most recent top 100 movies. The expanded HDR10 (disc) and Dolby Vision (streaming) toning and colors also produces accurate flesh tones and deep, consistent blacks seen, for example, when Sully takes a midnight run through Manhattan to unwind.

A slight disappointment in the home presentation is that the original IMAX aspect ratio of 1.90:1, which featured a larger vertical footprint, is reduced to a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The Blu-ray presentation is also reference-quality for the 2K crowd, especially for 50 inch or smaller HDTVs.


The Dolby Atmos track on both the 4K and Blu-ray are extremely active during the flight sequences. Jet engines roar throughout the room. The rest of the soundtrack is dominated by a blend of symphonic and jazz scales composed by Eastwood, an accomplished jazz pianist, and Christian Jacob.

"There's something about a near-miss that makes you appreciate life," Eastwood says. This crowd-pleasing film shouldn't be missed.

— Bill Kelley III, High-def Watch producer

Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles during the NTSB public hearing on US Airways Flight 1549.

Airbus flight simulator footage was shown during the hearing.

After listening to the cockpit voice recorder Sullenberger and Skiles exit the hearing. "I'm just so damn proud. And you, you were right there, through all that distraction. So much was at stake. We did this together. We were a team," says Sullenberger. "Thanks, Sully. We did our job," says Skiles.


On January 15, 2009.

More than 1,200 first responders and seven ferry boats carrying 130 commuters, rescued the passengers and crew of Flight 1549, in just 24 minutes.



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