Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
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
In the elevator with the small child, as Whip wipes his nose, a muzak version of The Beatles' "With a little help from my friends," can be heard. The verse begins, "I get high with a little help from my friends," right after Whip's friend gets him high. See more »
When Whip is in the bar and orders and orange juice and a double Stoli, the bartender only serves him a single. The standard US shot is 1.5oz (47ml) and takes three seconds to pour with a standard shot pour, which is exactly how long it took the bartender to pour. It's also evident that there is only a single shot in the glass. See more »
All right gentlemen, I need that table cleared and placed in front of Whip with a chair behind it. Now, please! I need a glass of water, I need a credit card, I need a hundred dollar bill.
I've, I've got a twenty.
See more »
"HOLD ON!" with Zemeckis' daring, full-blooded live-action comeback, and Washington in great form
Man, what a comeback for Robert Zemeckis to live action! This is a hard-hitting drama that, from the look of the trailer, would appear to be just about the 'hero' factor of a man: what is a hero? This is a subject that with the right approach can really be commandeering. In a sense this is like Zemeckis' Taxi Driver, only substituting alcoholism (with some drugs, though the booze is the key) for insanity. Who can make a difference in this world? Can a pilot who goes on drinking benders and sniffing coke with an ex-wife and kid he doesn't see? Instinct, apparently, can kick in at the most odd and desperate times - such as when a plane malfunctions and it goes into a state of chaos.
What we see with Captain Whip Whitaker, who is a risk-taking but courageous pilot, is gray area. This is not a guy we can entirely root for, and this is good. It's further complicated, and this should be the most complimentary sense, with Denzel Washington's casting. With a few exceptions in his career (i.e. Training Day), Denzel plays a guy the audience can root for. And hey, a hero-pilot is someone people love to lionize like Sullenberger "Sully" from a few years back. But what if the guy is just messed up, or has some internal demons? The script makes reference possibly to a history of familial alcoholism; when Whip returns to his father's old farm, he, in a fit of attempting-to-get- sober, empties and throws out bottles and bottles and cans and cans of liquor. Was this all his? Zemeckis leaves this part off. Good.
Washington is likable even when he is a lout. This could be a criticism that this drunk isn't a *bad* drunk, per-say. Irresponsible, sure, and aggrandizing. But it gets perspective when he's paired against another addict, who is recovering after OD'ing on heroin. The clean-up for this character was perhaps a little too quick, and there is a scene in a hospital stairwell in the middle of the night as Chip recovers where a cancer patient comes along, dropping some God-philosophy, and never appearing again. But these are faults on a small enough level that they don't really knock into what the main vision is of the film: this man, and his very real struggle: what's going to happen with the lucky but sad fact that six of the 102 passengers died(?)
I really admire Zemeckis working in a gray area morally. There were hints of it in Forrest Gump (Jenny's character as not really what Forrest saw her as, and Lt. Dan's struggle to a 'life'), even Back to the Future (she's your MOM, dude!) But here it's like Zemeckis and his writer say 'screw it, let's go into it full-hog'. And the path of the character is so compelling because we care about him much more, or I did anyway, because of his flaws, of his (non-existent) parenting and his fight against the cover of lies he's surrounded himself in: the booze, the coke, the two (or was it three) mini-bottles of vodka found on the plane, and the ensuing investigation. Even the man most in Whitaker's corner, played by Bruce Greenwood in a straight-laced but well-played exasperated performance, doesn't know what the hell to do with him after a while.
In a sense the film is like the best episode of the TV show 'Intervention' never made: we see this character in full dimensions, and it goes further with the performance by its star. You almost take a guy like Washington for granted when he does studio stuff like (as of late) Book of Eli or Safe House. Whip Whittaker is a character, full of pain but also dark, biting humor, warmth, charity, some madness, and Washington plays it all full tilt, but with a lot of subtlety and notes where we just have to watch him, every second of a scene where Zemeckis stays on him. It's almost more about his face, how he changes from cocky-asshole drunk with a buddy like John Goodman's character (who almost comes in like out of a Hunter S. Thompson book, almost not used enough), and when he is sitting at a meeting with his union rep and lawyer (Don Cheadle, grim-faced as usual), the movie is really about that: what is going to do - hell, like the Avengers, man: what is he PREPARED to do?
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