(CNN)You’re pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and everybody thinks you’re a great man — except you.
As Tom Hanks plays you in Clint Eastwood’s new movie, “Sully,” you act as though somebody else, some figment of the public’s imagination, managed to land a crippled airliner on the ice-cold Hudson River and save the lives of everybody on board, including you.
Young women you’ve never met before rush up to hug and kiss you as if you’re Santa Claus, minus the bulk and the beard. It’s slowly dawning on you that from now until the day you die, every drink you ever order at every bar you enter will be on the house, even though you insist on paying anyway.
You run, walk, jog and sometimes stumble through Manhattan streets, seemingly implacable, but also confused. Who is this guy they’re all toasting and cheering and clamoring after for interviews? It’s as though you’re living everybody else’s dream, except yours.
In fact, every time you close your eyes, you wake up believing you could be far less a hero than the rest of the world believes, that there were so many ways things could have gone wrong.
Some critics allege it’s Eastwood’s libertarian politics that make the government inquisitors the movie’s prohibitive baddies. But it’s not just them. It’s the goggle-eyed swooning, the media’s noisy, disorienting insistence on packaging, branding and marketing what was, in the end, a natural, altogether professional impulse. “Sully’s” real dramatic struggle is about overcoming all that.
We’re not going to spoil things with specifics. Let’s just say that the resolution of this struggle, towards the end, suggests what all of us need to do to get above media-saturated, bite-sized platitudes.
Sift through the white noise for what you recognize as your own essence and keep on going with your life as honestly as you can.
That process may be just as risky as trying to plant a large plane on a cold river. But if you stick the landing, the results can be just as rewarding.
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