‘Sully’ Screenwriter: No 'Ill Will' by NTSB During Investigation, Director Eastwood 'Masterful'

Mark Judge | September 9, 2016 | 10:18am EDT
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"Sully"Screenwriter Todd Komarnicki (Photo Todd Komarnicki/Screen Capture)

“Sully,” a new film about famous airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, is about how a man who does the right thing reacts when he comes under accusation.

That’s the view of “Sully” screenwriter Todd Komarnicki, who recently spoke to CNSNews.com about the film. 

Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tom Hanks, “Sully” tells the story of Sullenberger, a pilot who executed an emergency water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the aircraft was disabled shortly after take-off by striking a flock of geese on January 15, 2009. All of the 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft survived. An 18-month investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board found that after the initial impact Sully could have made it back to New York’s La Guardia Airport, but that the landing in the Hudson was the better choice, taking into consideration the extra time Sully needed to assess the situation. "Sully" depicts the stress Sullenberger endured as a result both of the landing and the NTSB investigation.

Recently some members of the NTSB have complained that they are treated as villains in “Sully,” but to Komarnicki there was no “ill will” on the part of the investigators.

“The key was, I had to do three layers of research," he says. "One was everything about the NTSB investigation, two was Sully's book...but then really the third level was memorizing Sully and Sully's willingness to share the stuff that he had not shared before - what he went through that was behind the scenes, that's was the wrenching and crushing investigation, the attempt, not out of ill will, but the honest attempt to try and find something that would affix blame. That’s really what they were looking for. You know, you look at 99 percent of these cases, the investigation, it always says at end, ‘pilot error.’ That’s the expectation even if someone is not going to speak that that's somewhere in the bloodstream of the investigation - pilot error. There was no pilot error to find. But it didn’t keep them from looking.”

Komarnicki also has praise for director Eastwood, who Komarnicki says tells Sully’s story straightforwardly and without exaggeration or bombast. “What that allows for is intimacy,” Komarnicki says. “It is an intimate film, and because it is an x-ray of a guy’s personal experience, a hero’s heart, that intimacy is fundamental to the audience feeling something. And we’re been so conditioned now by the 35 [editing] cuts...we're just told what to feel, and [a] pounding score, and God bless Clint for doing the opposite. He just trusts his actors to work in the frame, to say the lines, to light it well, and let the story unfold. That light touch is not accidental or arbitrary, it’s masterful."

Komarnicki is a devout Christian, and says the theme of "Sully" of being under accustation is both Biblical and universal. “For me the personal issue that everybody can reflect on no matter what one believes is to be under accusation," he says. "Scripturally, the enemy is known as the accuser. And any of us can wake up at four in the morning and have the accuser in our ear about how we failed as a parent, as a businessperson, as a dreamer, as a friend. We all know how to be accused. So what’s beautiful about this is to kick back against the accusations and say no no no no, I know who I am. I may have made some mistakes, but I know how I am. I’m going got live my life with love and integrity and striving for excellence…We must oversome our accusers to become who we were meant to be. 'Sully’ is a great example of kicking back against accusations to deliver the truth.”


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