Accomplished airline pilot lands plane in a field by pulling a super risky stunt. While drunk.
I’ve been wanting to see Flight for a while. I guess it just slipped through the cracks. Bad Film Nerd, BAD. Oh well, what do you want for nuthin’? We’re not making Ebert money here, you know. So, these things happen. So, finally I saw it. If somehow you thought it was a Discovery Channel documentary about flying, it’s not. But it is a good film. Can’t be all bad with Denzel Washington, right? And Robert Zemekis has has been around the block a couple times, and this film doesn’t have a bunch of added scenes of CG altered history, or anthropomorphized soccer balls, so that’s a nice change of pace.
Not so complicated a premise; an airline pilot saves a plane from a horrible crash, saving lives. But during the investigation, something disturbing is discovered. If you ‘ve seen one of the trailers for this, you know that they discover the pilot had been drinking. It’s basically a story about an alcoholic pilot.
But what is complicated is Denzel Washington’s performance. He is absolutley solid here as pilot Whip Whitaker. He’s a very confident guy, so much so that it borders on arrogance. He flies 747’s and the like, why wound’t he be? But he likes to sleep with hot stewardess and party, too. That can be a problem. But it’s his way, and he’s been flying that way for a long time. He’s a pro. But what kind of message would they be giving if he didn’t get caught eventually?
After he incredibly pulls a stunt that saves the plane from certain destruction and the lives of nearly all 102 people onboard, it is discovered through the blood tests while he was brought into the hospital that he had a blood alcohol content that was, you know, HIGH. Not to mention the cocaine in his system. This concerns the airline, the pilot’s union, and the attorney representing him, played by the always awesome Don Cheadle. John Goodman plays Harling Mays, Whip’s good friend and substance supplier. He’s hilarious. I love John Goodman. Even when he’s not that great, you like him.
Obviously the CG work on the plane and the crash is superb and looks pain-stakingly realistic. After all the work Zemekis has put in over the years with CG animation, he damn well better get this stuff right. Let us not forget the disconcerting characters in The Polar Express. Those weird, dead eyes… Only a realistic plane flying upside down here, and one that resutls in the whole crash sequence being really intense. Probably one of the more exciting aircraft scenes in recent memory.
Aside from that, most of the drama in Flight unfolds regarding Whip’s denial of any wrong doing. Yes, the plane malfunctions and he pulls a miracle out of his ass, even more amazing because he WAS drunk. But Whip is a textbook alcoholic and can’t see his problem. And the fact that six people did die in the crash leaves the door open to lawsuits. Everyone is scrambling to keep Whip out of trouble, the airline from lengthy court costs, and any or all of it from being put in the media spotlight. But Whip is stubborn, and hasn’t made any effort to admit he has a problem. And the possiblility of Whip facing life in prison makes his official hearing with the FAA all the more monumentally important.
Despite where the film takes us, we know where Flight will eventually have to go in the end. It’s a big Hollywood picture, after all. But Denzel’s performance is superb, never resorting to agregious emotional expression. Instead, he uses his eyes and manner, his deftness at expressing inner emotion, to convey all he needs. Though everyone is great in Flight, Washington is wonderful. He could get an Oscar nom here, though I don’t necessarily think the film will.
I’m in for four kittenhands. Flight is a really solid film and Denzel Washington is excellent and he pushes this film above your average fare. This is no Book of Eli, thankfully.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, glad this wasn’t a documentary about the history of the Wright Brothers or something. Unless they drank, too. I’d watch that doc.