An alcohol dependent pilot miraculously crash lands his plane but comes under fire once it is found out that he was drunk during the flight. With a brilliant performance from Denzel Washington in a hard to swallow film.
Writer: John Gatins
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez and Don Cheadle
Run time/Rating: 138 Minutes/ R
Popcorn Score: Large Popcorn
Flight is a classic case of a movie which is exceptionally done but you leave hating it. This isn’t the type of movie that anyone “is in the mood for”. It is a heavy drama that opens with an extremely thrilling plane crash and comes up for air only occasionally throughout with a touch of comic relief. Whip Whitaker is a veteran airplane pilot and perhaps even more of a veteran alcoholic who in the extremely riveting opening scene experiences the breakdown of his plane during a short skip from Orlando to Atlanta. He miraculously crash lands the plane killing only 6 of the 102 souls onboard. He is praised as a hero in the media as the only pilot working in the industry that could have brought down the plane with so few casualties. The only problem is, he was wasted the whole time.
This is the type of life that we quickly find out Whip Whitaker lives. As the opening credits roll he wakes up in a stupor the morning of that flight, naked, next to one of his flight attendants and they each have a swig of booze and a line of blow to level out their minds before boarding the plane. He is dialing his duties in at best for this short continental as I expect he had done many times throughout his career. Despite his heroic crash landing that day someone has to pay for the 6 lost lives and a post crash toxicology report shows that he had a BAC of over .2 with traces of cocaine in his system as well. A hero in the eyes of the media and the world quickly becomes the suspect in a quiet criminal investigation by the FBI.
Intertwined with the initial crash sequence we meet Nicole. A struggling addict who OD’s a mere minutes after her first moment on screen. These two characters meet in the hospital a short time into the film, she is there for rehab, and Whip in care after the crash. They form a quick relationship and promise to see each other after they are both out. That relationship story of two chemically dependent people plays a supporting part for the larger storyline of Whip and his union rep (Bruce Greewood) and his defense attorney (Don Cheadle) trying to acquit the obviously guilty but even more so troubled man.
Denzel Washington’s performance of a man who is so desperately in need of serious help for his life deflating alcoholism is stunning, touching and heart-wrenching. He shows his brilliance as an actor in the restrained moments of his drunken character. It is in the small actions, the way he spoke, his false confidence, and maybe more than anything else, his eyes how you could tell when he had been drinking, way before you saw the bottle in the scene. He is a self tortured character but only the actor has the opportunity to make the audience feel that torture and without a doubt, that is accomplished by Washington in Flight.
For me, the story becomes a battle over what Whip Whitaker needs for his life. I was hoping against him winning his case by the end because I knew that if that happens he is allowed to continue his debilitating lifestyle without any punishment and hopefully mandatory rehabilitation.
I didn’t enjoy the movie, but it was very good. I took issue with one moment at the end which is the only thing that makes me classify it short of brilliant, but without question I was engaged the entire time and felt feelings I often do not feel during a trip to the theater. I think you are going to have to make an effort to see this movie, you cannot wait for his movie to come to you, because as I said at top, you are never going to be in the mood for this movie – unless you are in the mood to feel sad I guess – but I highly recommend making the effort to see it. The story is very good and the lead performance is one of a kind.