Whip Whitaker is a commuter airline pilot. While on a flight from Orlando to Atlanta something goes wrong and the plane starts to fly erratically. With little choice Whip crashes the plane and saves almost all on board. When he wakes up in the hospital, his friend from the airline union introduces him to a lawyer who tells him there's a chance he could face criminal charges because his blood test reveals that he is intoxicated with alcohol and cocaine. He denies being impaired, so while an investigation is underway, he is told to keep his act together. However, letting go of his addiction is not as easy as it seems... Written by
Only soars on Denzel Washington's fantastic performance
Flight is the kind of movie that studio marketing departments seem to hate. Watching the trailer, it gives the feeling of a lighter film, dramatic, with some suspense. It does not, however, indicate that this is an incredibly dark film about the depths and perils of addiction. The trailer gives a completely different idea of what this movie is going to be about, but with Denzel Washington's "Whip" Whitaker doing cocaine about thirty seconds into the runtime, one can safely throw away any thoughts they may have had about it.
Mr. Washington stars as Captain Whitaker, piloting a flight from Florida to Georgia; a relatively short flight, but when something goes wrong at 30,000 feet, the quick-thinking and talented Whip rolls the plane to pull it out of its dive and ends up crash-landing, saving the lives of all but six people on-board the plane. The namesake sequence of the film is probably its best, filled with amazing tension and some stellar effects.
Washington absolutely shines in this role, and being an actor of immeasurable talent, there is no question why he is up for an Academy Award for best actor. His acting is the kind of amazing that doesn't even require words- near the end of the film, his performance is absolutely heartbreaking, and Denzel Washington wears it in his face. Sadly, the rest of the film (outside of scene-stealing performances from John Goodman and James Badge Dale) isn't really up to par. The film follows Whip's self-destructive alcoholism as he is caught up in an investigation into the cause of the plane crash; friends try to help him and are spurned, he is alienated from his family, and he finds fleeting comfort in strangers such as Nicole (Kelly Reilly).
This is where the film runs into problems, however. It wastes far too much screen time developing Nicole's character only to drop her off the face of the Earth. She enters Whip's life as a common ally, someone battling her own demons and addictions, but she is seeking help. She then vanishes from it just as quickly. Her character isn't all that interesting to begin with, and the same can be said for most of the rest of the characters and the story in the film; they only serve as a backdrop, a mirror through which Whip's many, many demons are reflected.
Flight is, unfortunately, a film without much of a sense of direction. Robert Zemeckis seems to be all over the place, pouring multitudes of attention into Nicole's character, the plane crash, and Whip battling his demons, and it never seems to make up its mind as to what it's about. The film never, for a moment, questions whether Whip is actually at fault for the plane crash, and in fact it was his actions that saved many lives. Maybe it is Washington's poise and gravitas in the scene, but it never feels like Whip isn't in control. True that he is drunk and on drugs, and has many serious, serious problems, but saving the lives of ninety-six people (himself included) wasn't one of them. So while the plane crash story is certainly interesting, there's never any doubt about exactly how it is going to play out.
Flight could have been a better film if it had capitalized on the success of the tension it so well displayed early during the plane crash. Whip's story, his battles with his numerous demons- and ultimately, his freedom from them- are moving and wonderful to watch. If Zemeckis hadn't tried to shoehorn in this ridiculous investigation plot that never really merits any attention, it would have been that much better. Washington gives a five-star performance, but the rest of Flight lands at a dismal Three and a half out of Five Stars.
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