Verdict: 4 / 5
Possibly the most mismarketed film of 2012, Flight starts off with an unforgettable pulse-pounding opening sequence that could easily be found at the center of an action film. But while the airplane’s crash scene captures our attention, Flight instead finds its feet as a heart-wrenching in-depth character study drama about a struggling alcoholic. Denzel pulls all the stops to deliver a heartbreaking performance, taking the audience on a bumpy up and down ride of emotions.
The FAA placed ten pilots in simulators, recreated the events. Every pilot killed everybody on board! You were the only one who could do it! – Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle)
Although Flight concerns itself about flying, and would possibly never be shown on any airplane, the title is meant as a double meaning. It also refers to the high-flying rock-and-roll life of Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) and his final tragic crash down to reality – he is an alcoholic in denial. Plane crash enthusiast Robert Zemecki, the brilliant mind behind Cast Away and Forest Gump, cements his return to live-action films by creating a thoroughly entertaining and terrifically structured masterpiece. The real treasure, however, is Denzel’s performance. While most actors tend to overplay drunken unsympathetic characters, Denzel is spot on and believable – his performance a calculated portrayal.
You’re a hero, man! You will never pay for a drink for as long as you live. – Harling Mays (John Goodman)
Seasoned pilot Whip Whitaker, a veteran from a family of veterans, is a walking contradiction – a charming, friendly guy whose likability is only clouded by an ugly and excessive lifestyle of drugs, sex and alcohol. A fortuitous meeting of events sees our anti-hero land a malfunctioning jet, saving the lives of more than a hundred passengers. While the media declares him a hero, several investigations by lawyers and insurance companies suggest otherwise. The dilemma, of course, is that, although Whip managed to do the impossible by landing the plane, he was completely drunk at the time. Bent on covering up the truth, he seeks the help of union rep (Bruce Greenwood), a lawyer (Don Cheadle), his dealer (John Goodman) and his recovering addict girlfriend (Kelly Reilly). Try as they will, nobody can stop Whip’s addictive habits. He utters the mantra of every heavy drinker, “I drink by choice. I can stop whenever I want.” But can he really?
This thing is so heavy it’s killed me. – Whip (Denzel Washington)
Pay attention and you’ll notice the many Christian elements cleverly hidden within the film. Everything from song choice to cinematography is calculated and strategically placed. If it’s a faith film, it’s not the most forthcoming one though. Especially since the opening sequence includes full nudity, a big no-no for sensitive viewers. Those who do make it past the first scene will find that Flight proves to be a thoughtful, engaging and rewarding experience. Denzel steers audiences to hate him, love him, hate him, love him, then hate him again… and then love him again. Such mastery deserves attention.