Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Tamara Tunie, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood
I do not think people realize how much faith they are putting in their pilot every time they board a plane. It may become more apparent after seeing Flight, Robert Zemeckis’ first live action movie since 2000’s Cast Away. It is another day on the job for William “Whip” Whitaker (Washington), a pilot at the top of his game. It is severely raining outside but that does not seem to be of any alarm for Whip. He does his routine checks and is ready to face the sky like any other flight he has piloted. The plane lifts off and continues until the storm becomes worse and proves to be too powerful for the plane. The plane goes into a steep dive forcing Whip and his co-pilot to maneuver it to avoid crashing and killing every passenger on board. They are able to control it by inverting it and guiding it closer to an open landing field. The crash landing is nowhere near as horrendous as it could have been. Six people total, four passengers and two crew members, perish during the crash. Whip is taken to the hospital and proclaimed a hero. No one could have landed the plane the way he did.
Little does everyone know that previous to boarding the plane, Whip did not sleep, got drunk, and snorted lines of cocaine with one of the flight attendants. He awakens from a concussion in the hospital and is surrounded by Charlie Anderson (Greenwood) a long time friend and representative of the union as well as members for the NTSB, National Transportation Safety Board. An investigation into the accident will occur as six people died in the crash. His friend and drug dealer Harling Mays (Goodman) picks him up when he is released and takes him to his father’s farm to avoid the media circus that is awaiting him at his own apartment. He sees the accident as a calling and promptly dumps any and all traces of liquor and drugs found in his place. While at the hospital, he meets fellow drug addict Nicole (Reilly) and invites her to stay with him at the farm.
Toxicology results come back positive for Whip showing the alcohol and drugs that were in his system while he was flying the plane. Attorney Hugh Lang (Cheadle) is hired as Whip’s lawyer to deal with the new predicament. Whip could face the rest of his life in jail as the deaths of the crash are now being investigated for manslaughter. With these new allegations, Whip returns to bottle as his coping mechanism.
Movies about alcoholics are never easy to watch. Even if you do not have any personal experience with knowing an alcoholic, the concept still manages to punch you in the gut. Denzel Washington is so good at these types of damaged characters that it makes it so much harder for the audience. I mean that in a good way. Whip is such an unapologetic and bullheaded character that every time he reaches for that bottle, you cringe in your seat. You just wish that for once he would hold himself accountable and make the better choice. I wish the costume and make-up designers would have roughened up Whip and Nicole a bit more. They both seem too pretty and put together for two characters that are that deep into addiction.
Despite Zemeckis’ twelve year hiatus from live action movies, Flight proves that he still can deliver a top notch, well-executed movie. Once the storm is brewing, you are put in the co-pilot’s chair until the very end of the crash. It is one nail biting, gut wrenching scene. Washington and the rest of the cast all deliver outstanding performances never trying to play the “drunk” or “victim” card. Tamara Tunie has a touching scene with Washington during the funeral as she stands up for her morals over her long friendship with Whip. John Goodman excels at his usual sidekick character as the Hawaiian shirt wearing dealer of Whip’s. He is a good comedic break that the movie needs so it doesn’t feel too bogged down in heavy topic of addiction. The story provides such interesting moral dilemmas. The plane malfunction was proven to be the fault of the accident, but do you still hold Whip accountable due to his poor choices? Can you still consider Whip a hero?
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)