FlightDirector: Robert Zemeckis Writer: John Gatins Cast: Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Tamara Tunie Cinematography: Don Burgess Original Music: Alan Silvestri
To be completely honest, this kind of movie doesn’t really attract me to the theater. The emotional Oscar nominated stuff is what I want to see in the comfort of my own home where it’s cheaper. The big screen should be used for explosions and effects, because that is where it looks the best. Plus, crying in front of a bunch of strangers is just embarrassing. But Flight looked like it might be a bit different. For one thing, the film does have a cool looking plane crash. That alone might be worth the price of admission. But when you have plane crash plus Denzel Washington, perhaps you have something that is begging to be seen in a darkened theater. I have loved Washington since Remember the Titans (who doesn’t love that movie? Best sports film ever), and he’s always done a great job even with some of the obscure stuff he’s been doing (like Unstoppable). So with popcorn in hand, I entered the surprisingly crowded theater expecting to find an okay movie that wouldn’t really excite me as much as something with superheroes in it.
Captain “Whip” Whitaker is a pilot for a commercial airline, a pilot who also happens to be a functioning alcoholic. When he boards a typical flight and drinks several bottles of vodka, it is an ordinary day. Unfortunately, one day the plane he’s flying suddenly goes into a nosedive towards the Earth. It is almost certain that they will all crash, but when Whip takes control and inverts the plane he is able to avoid a complete disaster. But even though the crash isn’t a complete devastation, some people lose their lives. This brings into question the man who was in the Captain’s chair. Whip must fight to control his actions, and his alcohol consumption, before he is put in jail. Can he get his act together long enough to be labelled the hero? Or will his demons ensure his descent into complete disaster?
It was sort of a given, considering the body of work this man has done, but Denzel Washington pulled off another amazing performance. It’s a difficult thing to make a destructive alcoholic seem sympathetic, but you really do feel for the guy. A lot of that has to do with Denzel’s portrayal of a man who is losing control and realizing he may have to make some changes to survive. And while I have no frame of reference for an alcoholic (besides the many nights spent at parties in college), the fact that I can relate to this story of someone who is trying to get their life in order means a lot. In the end, this story isn’t about a plane crash. It’s about Whip’s journey to the bottom, and what he does when he gets there.
While the main story turns out not to be about a plane, the crash and the surrounding case is incredibly cool. The whole scene where the plane is going down, is a complete adrenaline rush. It’s very scary to think about that happening, and you’re completely in the moment with these people as they scream and strap in. When Whip takes charge in the face of certain death, you are instantly on his side – no matter what the outcome. The tension of the moment finally breaks as the plane glides and then crashes into a field, in a very cool bit of effects. The ensuing investigation into the cause of the nosedive is an interesting look into the inner workings of an airline and the legal ramifications of such a crash. The lawyer who is going to defend Captain Whip, Hugh Lang (played by Don Cheadle), is definitely an intriguing character as he battles with the poor decisions of his client. I love this kind of drama, where you get really involved with a legal battle.
Watching Whip’s struggle with the drink is certainly going to affect you. The guy’s life is in shambles, even though he just pulled off a completely heroic stunt that saved a lot of lives. You’re going to feel some tears coming on, especially at the end. And the fact that you become so invested in Whip’s life makes it hard not to want to yell at the screen when he keeps making the wrong choices. It makes you feel incredibly sad for someone who literally cannot control his own actions when it comes to alcohol. But it’s not all about the depressing story, there are also some funny moments that keep you from wallowing. There is one man who is responsible for this – Whip’s friend/drug dealer Harling Mays (played by John Goodman). All it takes is to see Harling walk into a room with his ponytail to get you to smile. It may be an emotional ride most of the time, but it’s not without a few silly parts.
Boy does this movie make you re-think ever taking a drink. As much as I enjoy going out and having a good time, if alcohol can cause all of these problems it’s a lot more dangerous than I’ve ever imagined. I suppose if I start drinking every single day, that’s when I should start examining my life. But Whip’s battle with the booze is something that is going to cause you extreme anger. It made me want to scream at the screen for him to stop. He’s just keeps making the exact wrong decision that will ruin everything. Everyone in his life is trying to help him, but he will not let them. You hate that he just keeps picking up that bottle. But that is the response that they wanted, because it is incredibly hard to watch anyone go through that.
Overall: 5 Stars out of 5
I really enjoyed watching Flight. It’s emotionally powerful and moving to watch Whip’s journey to find out who he is. It’s also a very creepy premise when you add in the flying an airplane element. It makes you re-think taking a long trip anywhere, especially when you think about the fact that Captain Whip probably isn’t the only functioning alcoholic operating heavy machinery. While I probably could have waited for the home video, I’m glad that I saw this film. Seeing Denzel Washington brave through the storm is definitely worthy of some Oscar recognition, and you’ll want to add it to your list of movies to see before you die.