Saturday, October 8, 2016

How I would do a The Miracle on the Hudson movie

So, we didn't see a movie today.  Did get in two more episodes of Luke Cage.  In episode three I had a moment of "Show, I think I know exactly what you're going to do.  For the love of all that is fucking holy prove me wrong," and it didn't, and I am irked, but this is about not seeing a movie.

There wasn't a lot playing at the place where we would have seen the movie.

One thing that had some promise was Sully, but that promise was somewhat marred by the fact that it was called "Sully" when all five crew members were heroes.  Moreover, whenever there's a movie that should be great it runs the risk of, "That would have been an enjoyable movie, if not for the fact that any movie about that/like that should X times better and so I'm just left disappointed."

Watch bad movies on the See Fee Channel and you'll very rarely get let down.  (Though some times they pull off that execrable feat.)  Watch movies that should be fantastic and you invite a certain melancholy into your life as you constantly note how much better things could have been.

So, anyway: what it should be.

The thing is, "The Miracle on the Hudson" was the most successful ditching in aviation history because, basically, everyone did their jobs and nothing beyond the obvious (bird strike, boom boom, now this is a very poorly designed glider) went wrong.

So the movie shouldn't be Sully it should be Flight school and crew training and how they decided to write what they did in the manuals and air craft construction standards and . . . stuff.

And to really capture that what you'd want to do is have the flight (which lasted about six minutes) and evacuation with extensive flashbacks cut into both.

Something happens, flashback to what went into making the procedures and such used to deal with that, return to show the crew doing those things.

It's not enough that people opened the doors in such a way as to deploy those inflatable slide things that doubled as life rafts and when one failed the manual handle was used.

You need to show the decision to make them life rafts, the work that went into the design, whoever said, "Of course it's supposed to happen automatically, but we need a backup in case it doesn't," to get the manual handle on there and so forth.

AND you need to show what led to flight attendants getting training on that because when the fucking Titanic was launched the crew didn't know how to properly load a life boat and that makes a difference.  (Sure, they didn't have enough boats for everyone, but it's not as if they saved everyone that they did have boats for.)  Then, of course, the flight attendants getting that training, then return to the incident where they used the damned training.

It's not just Sully, in this case more than many people that get movies made about them.  Sully didn't do anything special, instead he did normal things well.  Very well.  Almost unbelievably well.  Then again so did the four other people on the flight crew.

And if you really want to tell the story you don't just need to have them doing these normal things well, you need to tell the story of why these things are normal.  And also how if you're in a panic on a sinking plane you shouldn't open a door that the crew hasn't authorized you to open because that makes it sink faster.

But mostly what went into the technology, the information, and the training that led to things going right.

Ditching is not something one ever wants to do because planes that are not made for water landings have a tendency to sink and people have a tendency to die.

The plane was packed.  The standard layout for an Airbus 320 accommodates 150 passengers and that is exactly how many passengers there were.  Add in the crew and you get 155 people.  The reason it's called a miracle is that 155 people survived.  That . . . usually isn't going to happen.

And yet how it happened was people doing what they were trained to do.  Nothing more.  Nothing more was required.  All that they had to do to become heroes was do their jobs, and you'd want to depict that.

Also, that type of plane was specifically designed so that it would hold up well in a forced water landing (ditching.)  You'd want to depict that.

The things that went into the events of January 15, 2009 were things that were set into motion years in advance.  Incorporating that into a movie wouldn't necessarily be easy.  It requires being unstuck in time.  Story progresses this much, flashback to the series of events by which this thing or tidbit or bit of training came to be in play, show how it played out, story progresses a bit, another flashback to a Connections-esque journey through time to see how the next important bit got there, and so forth.

I don't think I've ever seen a movie done that way, I have no idea if it would work.  But it's how you'd really have to do it.

How did it become required that flight attendants be trained in water-landing evacuation?  Because that saved lives every bit as much as the flight attendants who used that training.

So on, so forth, rinse, repeat.

* * *

Short version:
The reactions of all members of the crew, the split second decision making and the handling of this emergency and evacuation was 'text book' and an example to us all.     -Air Commodore Rick Peacock- Edwards, Master of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators
An example to us all, yes, but the thing about the heroics of textbook operation, is that credit is due to the textbook as well.  How did the textbook get written in such a way that following it could make you a hero?

That's as much the story of US Airways Flight 1549's incredibly successful ditching on the Hudson river as what happened on the plane itself.

The entire crew, and at least one of the passengers, were definitely heroes.  But they were only able to pull off "Everybody lives, Rose.  Just this once, everybody lives," because of everything that had come before.

* * *

This is, perhaps, not as good as it could be.  Lonespark thought it important that I just get it done, and she's probably right.  When I wait to write something it often doesn't get written.

* * *

I looked up the plot of Sully.

I'm glad we didn't watch it.


  1. This is awesome!

    Sad, tho not particularly surprised, to hear the actual movie isn't...

  2. I don't think the movie you describe would be an exciting one. I mean, every point you make is accurate, but people going to the theater for Action! aren't going to want to see the movie you describe.

    I haven't looked up the plot of Sully but I bet it would make those same people happy.

  3. From a quick glance at Wikipedia, I suspect that Captain Sullenberger himself would prefer your version.

  4. It's an American filmmaking, and more generally storytelling, truism (which often means a world-wide filmmaking/storytelling truism too) that stories have to be given a human face. Traditional superheroes are a particular example of this: problems, no matter how abstract, can be solved by a specific person punching a specific other person.

    So to make this film your way they'd set up a specific instruction-manual writer, who's opposed by all the other people working on it, but his wife believes in him, and…

  5. Hmmm, yeah. I think that idea would work, Firedrake.

    But no making it a white dude. Not for the next 400 years.

    And we can do team stuff. We do it more in TV, and we put redundant, obnoxious white dudes in charge too often, but it is a genre with some popularity...

  6. The movies I'm familiar with that really sold the team problem-solving aspect were space movies: Apollo 13 and The Martian. Americans sometimes enjoy solving problems by mathing them in the face (with explosions, of course!)

    But so I do think you could have plenty of suspense and drama with something like this. The instruction writer(s) and trainer(s) could be haunted by the spectre of tragedies that claimed their families, that they couldn't stop, or that they witnessed as kids... And opposed by Greedy Rich Jerks...