The title is a little misleading. This is a story about an alcoholic substance abuser (Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker) who has yet to come to terms with his problem. The flight incident happens early in the film while the rest of the film documents Whip's denial of his problems. What muddies the water is that Whip, while drunk, is a better pilot than anyone is sober.
John Goodman provided the comedy relief for the film. I wish there had been more of him in the film. Nadine Velazquez provides the full frontal nude scene at the beginning of the feature.
Denzel Washington creates a good character, but the plot was weak. It wasn't a flight film. And as far as a man coming to terms with his alcoholism, it didn't exactly grab me. There was some questions involving Denzel's secular views vs. the religious views of those around him. The co-pilot's wife caused laughter believing the accident was God's will.
Parental Guide: F-bombs, nudity, no sex.
***This review contains spoilers, but nothing that isn't shown in the trailer. If you want to go in knowing nothing, stop reading now.***
Denzel Washington rarely disappoints, and his role in Flight is one of his most interesting performances in years. Unlike many of his roles, this one casts doubts about whether Washington's character is a hero or a villain.
If you haven't seen any reviews of the film, you might think that Flight is going to feature a lot of action, but the action is over once we experience the crash sequence. This is very much a drama.
The opening scenes show Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) in bed with a flight attendant. He's been awake all night and he's drunk and high on cocaine. That's not exactly the best preparation for work when you are going to be entrusted with the lives of everyone on board a plane. Would you be happy if you knew that your pilot was in such a state?
Whitaker feels the need for another drink before the plane takes off, and drinks vodka without anyone noticing. When he takes his seat next to the co-pilot, Ken, his behavior appears a little odd. Whitaker orders coffee and Aspirin and takes off as though nothing is wrong. Ken's suspicions heighten when Whitaker exceeds the recommended speed while climbing to escape bad weather.
If you remember the crash in Cast Away, you'll know that Robert Zemeckis knows how to portray such an event effectively. In Flight, the crash is even more terrifying. If you are nervous about flying, this won't help you overcome it. The plane starts to fall apart at 30,000 feet, but Whitaker remains calm, although everyone else is panicking. In one of the best scenes in the film, he takes the aircraft into a controlled roll and flies upside down to recover from an uncontrolled dive, before landing it in a field. Six of the 102 people on board are killed.
That all happens during the first 30 minutes of the film. Whitaker is apparently a hero, and we later learn that what he did was something that other pilots were unable to duplicate in simulated tests. So why isn't that the end of the story?
Someone has to be blamed for the crash.
A parallel story shows Nicole (Kelly Reilly), who is addicted to drugs. She meets Whitaker in the corridor of a hospital, when both sneak out to smoke a cigarette. Addiction is a key theme in the film and the two develop a kind of bond, recognizing similar character traits in each other.
The remainder of the story is a character study, and shows how Whitaker deals with life after the crash. Addictions to drugs and alcohol have affected some of the most important relationships in his life. We see him struggle to face that fact and the impact of the decisions he makes.
Whitaker isn't completely free to confront his personal demons as he is being investigated to determine whether he was at fault during the crash. We see him prepare for a hearing, which is not a trial in court, but could lead to him being found responsible for the six deaths, and ultimately result in him serving a life sentence. His preparation is aided by Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), a former pilot and colleague, and Hugh (Don Cheadle), who is a lawyer. Both give strong performances in small supporting roles. The most colorful character in the film is Whitaker's friend, Harling Mays (John Goodman). If Goodman had played The Dude in The Big Lebowski, he would have looked something like this.
Melissa Leo does a good job as Ellen Block, who leads the investigation into Whitaker's performance. Although I would like to talk about that sequence, I have already given away more than enough details about the plot.
Flight contains elements that make it a little hard to categorize. It's certainly not an action movie, but the crash scene will have you on the edge of your seat. It's more about addiction and what drives people to do what they do. It also makes the viewer question what is right and what is wrong.
If you have seen the film, is Whitaker a hero? What about the airline itself? Is the outcome fair, or would you have liked to have seen a different resolution?
Whatever your opinion of the events on the screen, it's hard to argue about the quality of the film itself. Washington gives one of his best performances, and Zemeckis treats the audience with respect and raises a lot of questions.
Flight was one of the best films I saw in 2012.
Denzel Washingto shows why he is an Oscar winner. He plays a pilot who saves an airplane and its passengers from a sure death, but questions arise on his conduct before and during that fateful flight. That is the story in its entirety. The movie is a character study into the mind of this pilot and what makes him tick. It shows that even a superhero pilot has flaws and that no human is perfect. Denzel gives us a brilliant look into the human psyche, and was justly nominated for an Oscar for this role. This was one of the best performances of the year. It shows the rise and fall of a national hero.
on February 16, 2013
From the masterful direction, Denzel's Oscar worthy performance, the frightening flight sequences, the performances of the supporting cast, and finally the incredible script. This film is extraordinary and a must see and own.
on May 1, 2016
Flight is an examination of a troubled man's life and an ethical and legal question regarding an incident he was involved in. What happens when an alcoholic who is drunk on duty performs a heroic feat that saves lives? It's decent entertainment, being a well acted, worthy production. Although, I figure the one viewing is enough.
It's rated R - not for kids.
on January 10, 2014
The movie would not play on my 3 year old HP BlueRay player. I'm not a techie but I researched the problem on line and ended up updating the firmware on my player, a messy process. After more fiddling I finally got the movie to play. On the movie case it stated "Dual-layer format" which none of my existing movies profess to have so I guess the old firmware couldn't handle this new format. This is perhaps unfair criticism because once I got it to play, the movie itself was great.