From the director of Forrest Gump and Cast Away comes Flight, the story of a heroic commercial airline pilot with a drinking problem. Is this movie an Oscar contender for Denzel Washington and Robert Zemeckis or is it going to crash and burn?
Academy Award winner Denzel Washington (Training Day/Philadelphia) portrays Captain “Whip” Whitaker, a pilot with genius level flying talents who is falling into a downward spiral of lies and addictions. After a night of booze, coke and sex, Whip gets behind the controls of his SouthJet Airlines plane en route to Atlanta from Orlando. After severe weather and a malfunctioning plane, he is forced to let his instincts take over. His ordinary day no longer is as he is forced to make a miraculous crash landing that no other pilot in the world could make in order save the 102 passengers on board. Whip becomes a national hero to the media circus, but upon a toxicology screening, it’s found that Whip had a blood alcohol level of .17 as well as narcotics in his system. Now facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter Whip must do whatever he can to avoid life in prison.
In 2009, pilot Chesley Sullenberger III landed a crippled US Airways jet into the Hudson River. After the first time seeing the trailer for Flight, I guess I was expecting a film about a heroic man possibly dealing with his flaws and the stress of being the newest celebrity in America loosely based upon Captain Sullenberger. Instead of telling a story like that, Flight takes a completely different direction and commences to be an overly self righteous agenda based film filled to the brim with the possible realities of God’s plans for us all and the destruction of alcoholism and drug abuse. The best way to describe the movie is basically a brutally graphic tale that someone would use to introduce themselves at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting describing how they hit rock bottom. Now while Denzel Washington isn’t narrating the film about his character’s life, you are watching the events of his life turn upside down in the same way as his jet was flown.
In so many ways the story isn’t even about the plane crash. The disaster is actually pushed under the carpet on numerous occasions as the focus truly lies on Denzel Washington’s performance as a functioning alcoholic. Denzel’s character is not at all likable, but I feel that’s the point. The audience needs to see exactly why this man cannot be trusted and why even his estranged wife and child want nothing to do with him. As the performance continues throughout the film, his actions just become plain out predictable. Every actor on screen are truly just supporting actors and actresses to Denzel and his bottles.
The movie eludes that the crash was actually just an act of god in order to lead Denzel to another addict to save his life. Kelly Reilly plays Nicole who survives a heroine overdose and ends up in the same hospital as Whip. Nicole is now clean and sober and tries to save Whip, but her efforts become futile at no fault of her own, because the entire world is enabling Whip of his over the top drinking habits. His Union Rep (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer (Don Cheadle) are quick to just sweep his drinking under the rug to save their jobs and reputation even if it means destroying the truth.
The movie does have some amazing aspects. The plane crash is probably the most realistic you will ever see on scene. The engines ignite. The instrument panels flash while the alarms deafen your ears. You witness the sacrifice of bravery. And you’ll experience the panic. You’ll understand the chaos and you’ll applaud Denzel as he stays cool, calm, and collective throughout the situation. Another thing I was impressed with was the film’s soundtrack. Director Robert Zemeckis didn’t just pick out songs as background, but chose specific songs that have their own backstory. During Nicole’s heroine overdose, The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Under the Bridge” plays. The song is about lead singer’s own experience with heroine addiction and the loss of friends because of it. Even the introduction of Whip’s drug dealer buddy, Harling Mays played by John Goodman, is choreographed to the tune of “Symphony of the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Throughout the movie, you’ll understand the story even more as the music creates the narrative.
The big thing I had a problem with the movie was how preachy it developed. It’s like a friend that becomes “born again.” Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding your own version of the God you accept, but most of the time the message of being saved is shoved down your throat like syrup of ipecac. Now as a child of an alcoholic, I had way too many flashbacks on the realities the film portrayed, but instead of love, communication and counseling as possible solutions, I felt the movie mainly focused on Christ as the solution. I also felt that Flight was more for intervention rather than entertainment, meaning if you have a friend that you care about with a drinking problem, this is a movie to trick them into seeing it to hopefully teach them something. Now don’t get me wrong, the film’s message is powerful, but one that can really polarize the audience. For me, it was like experiencing a part of my life that I never wanted to dwell upon again. Some people in the audience will find salvation and enlightenment with this movie, I just wasn’t one of those people. I’d compare my film experience to going to church. You either love it loathe it. I’ll let you be the judge of how you’ll interpret it from my review if Flight is exactly what you are looking for in a film.
In Theaters: November 2, 2012
Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes
Rating: R (for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, Kelly Reilly and John Goodman.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Official Site: http://www.paramount.com/flight