If it weren’t for the absolutely dynamite cast, starting with star Denzel Washington who—through sheer force of acting will—instills believable emotion into his part and a tip-top supporting crew—including John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and Bruce Greenwood—Flight would have crashed shortly after takeoff. Instead, thanks entirely to the cast who try to find nuance in a script that bashes home its message, the movie glides to a bumpy landing.
The plot of Flight is outlined in detail in the trailers and commercials pitching the film. Veteran commercial pilot Whip Whittaker (Washington) pulls a one-in-a-million maneuver to keep the plane from taking a nose dive into the turf. What follows, however, is an examination into every aspect of the crash and the reveal that Whittaker was both drunk and high on cocaine—plus he had marijuana in his system—when he was flying a commercial airliner. The movie follows him as he tries to get clean, beats the test, and sees everything fall apart because of his addiction.
That’s what Flight is about, you see. Alcohol addiction. We watch Whittaker hit absolute rock bottom and finally come clean. And it might be sponsored by Alcoholics Anonymous.
What’s fascinating about Flight is that the protagonist is a completely reprehensible human being. He’s a drunk, he’s abusive to the people around him, he’s without remorse and morals when he’s lying to keep his secret under wraps. And yet the audience begins to root for him, to have his positive drug test thrown out of court, thanks to the utterly soulless pilots union who is only interested in keeping their union intact.
There’s also a subplot about Nicole, a recovering heroin junkie who is trying to get clean (Kelly Reilly) and the abusive relationship that develops between she and Whip. Nicole’s recovery is quick and easy—one trip to the hospital and she’s cured.
Goodman manages to steal the movie with his limited screen time, playing a drug dealing Mr. Fixit, The Dude if he pushed powder instead of social justice.
The subject matter discussed in Flight could easily overwhelm audience, so director Robert Zemeckis imbues the movie with some timely humor to keep things light. Being preached at for 2 hours would be unbearable, so the decision benefits the film’s pacing. That is not to say the film’s pacing is spotless. In hammering home its message, the movie is about 20 minutes too long and the filmmakers stick around long after they should have rolled the credits, giving Zemeckis the schmaltzy ending he so loves.
Flight is not a bad movie. There are some great scenes, including the plane crash that sets things in motion which is one of the most intense experiences you’ll have this year. The performances, as mentioned, are great. I loved the score and how it was integrated into the film.
Flight has the hallmarks of a great movie but its underlying script is so preachy and melodramatic that it makes the movie hard to stomach. A neat concept is ruined by the heavy-handed direction.
Recommended If You Like: