“Flight” starred Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Don Cheadle and was nothing like what I had expected. Washington played Capt. Whip Whitaker, a veteran airline pilot flying a routine 52 minute route from Orlando to Atlanta. Encountering mechanical difficulties, among other things including “acts of God,” Whitaker landed the crashing, out of control plane saving many lives. Unfortunately, six lives were lost and “someone must pay the price.” There was an investigation of the crash and we began to learn more troubling information about Capt. Whitaker and his pre-flight investigation.
The beginning of the movie was intense. I knew there was going to be a crash as that was evident in every description and trailer of the movie I had seen. What I didn’t expect was the turbulent ride I, the viewer, experienced from my comfy theater chair. The first scene showed Capt. Whitaker waking up in a hotel room, obviously having had quite the night. As he fought with his ex-wife on the phone, he took a swig of warm, left-over beer among many empty bottles on the nightstand. He looked like a train had hit him. (No pun intended with “Unstoppable!”) But no worries. As he got ready for work, he did a couple of lines of coke. All better. Whitaker showed up ready to fly, looking dapper in his pilot’s uniform and cool Ray-Bans. I was still blown away from the first scene.
As Captain Whip Whitaker sat ready to take off, knowing he was responsible for “102 souls” on board, he took a couple of aspirin and some coffee to prepare. Along with the “souls” on board, the flight attendant and co-pilot bring up their religious beliefs and the running theme of “it’s God’s plan” was quite evident giving us an early indication that Whip was struggling in every aspect of his life. Whip knew the plane was doomed the moment he stepped on board. The high intensity obvious action began and ended in the first 30 minutes of the movie. It was at that point that we hung on for the roller coaster ride of personal demons and struggles within our main character. His character unraveled and showed us how ugly drug and alcohol addiction can be. As the NTSB investigated the crash and why it occurred we wanted so badly to want to love our hero: the man that save 96 souls aboard. Like reality, no one person is perfect. This was quite true of Capt. Whitaker. His behavior was appalling and his decisions angered me, yet it was his competence as a pilot that saved those people. That was a conflict that as a viewer, I was grappling with resolving. I must admit that this was the first time that I didn’t like Denzel Washington’s character. I loved him even in “Safe House” as a bad guy, but this guy was too real and struggling so badly that I just couldn’t like him. I really had no idea how this movie would end and what decisions he would make. Well done!
Washington, although I didn’t like his character, was outstanding. I was captivated from the moment I saw him...completely disheveled and unappealing then transforming into the competent pilot and then on to becoming what I thought was a lost cause. He showed us every aspect of his character's personality. You could feel how he wrestled within his mind about making decisions and how alcohol affected him. John Goodman played Whitaker’s childhood friend Harley. Again, Goodman added the levity needed in a very serious movie without taking away any credibility. Cheadle played the uptight and bright Chicago lawyer, Hugh Lang, hired to help Whitaker even when he didn’t want Lang's help. The remaining supporting cast deftly played those who loved Whitaker, but ultimately were rejected by him and his disease. "Flight" showed how alcoholism affects everyone like a tornado's path. This was a sobering shot of the repulsiveness of drug and alcohol addiction and how it becomes the person.
I highly recommend seeing this movie as Washington’s performance is magnificent and impactful. The story is gripping and moving, but it’s harsh. It may not be for everyone. There is some very real-looking drug usage and alcoholism is truly disturbing. That being said, if you know what you’re going in to, see it! It’s for anyone in their college years and older.