Flight – A Review

I took advantage of the long weekend (Thank you Veterans!) to catch a few movies. I had seen the preview for Flight a few times over the last month and it effectively did its job in making me more interested in the movie. The trailer gave just enough away that I thought I knew the basic concept of the movie without telling too much of the story. Plus you really can never go wrong with Denzel Washington. He’s always doing something interesting.

Flight is a solid film that is compelling and complex. Washington plays pilot Whip Whitaker, who must make a daring landing when the plane he is flying has a massive malfunction while it is in the air. It’s a maneuver that few pilots could execute and Whitaker’s actions minimize the loss of life of those on board. However, Whitaker is also a raging alcoholic who consumed alcohol before and during his flight – a fact that is discovered after routine toxicology reports after the crash. His lawyer (Don Cheadle ) is in the unenviable position of defending a man who clearly needs help, but whose intoxication did not contribute to the crash or Whitaker’s ability to handle the crisis. Whitaker’s actions are heroic, but he is no hero; he’s actually fairly arrogant and despicable.

I personally think that Denzel is most interesting when he is playing more unlikable characters and Whitaker is definitely hard to sympathize with in his state. Flight gives a good glimpse into what it is like to be a functioning alcoholic and throughout the movie you are torn over empathy with Whitaker as he struggles and frustration with his inability to admit to his problem and seek help. It’s hard to root for Whitaker to be acquitted of any wrong doing, but that is occasionally what I found myself doing. He deserves to be punished, but it also seems unjust for him to be blamed for the casualties that did occur since by all accounts how he landed the plane was nothing short of a miracle. What is right and what is just are not always the same thing.

The acting is uniformly outstanding – Washington is always reliable and handles the many facets of Whip Whitaker very well. Cheadle is also unsurprisingly great; he has a job to do regardless of his feelings about Whitaker and his drinking. Kelly Reilly was also good as a recovering addict that Whitaker meets while in the hospital; the actress looked very familiar to me, but looking at her IMDB page I’m not sure what I would have seen her in. I’m always happy when John Goodman makes an appearance and he has a small role as Whitaker’s buddy and enabler. Melissa Leo also has a limited role as the person leading the investigation.

White I thought that Flight was a good movie, I am not sure that the film actually earned the ending that we got. I understand why things unfolded the way that they did, but it seemed to happen too quickly and felt a bit abrupt. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with the resolution – though it did feel a bit like a cheat – but the way it played out left me unsatisfied.

Some other random thoughts:

  • I am glad that I don’t have any plans to fly in the immediate future; the scenes of the crash were unnerving and all the discussion of drunken pilots and poorly inspected and constructed planes did not give me a lot of confidence in the airline industry. I’ll get over it, but I’m relieved that I don’t have to board a plane any time soon.
  • I’m sure this is the opposite effect that they wanted, but all the drinking in the film reminded me that I have some mini bottles of Grey Goose vodka that I should throw in my freezer.
  • I could never be a drug addict – it’s just too complicated. Knowing what and when to take something to even yourself out is more than I would be able to handle. I’d OD pretty quickly.
  • We get a little nudity from Denzel, which I don’t remember seeing before (assuming they didn’t use a double).
  • The movie is about 2 hours and 30 minutes, but moves along pretty quickly. There are always things that could have been cut, but it was generally a good use of time.
  • They even worked a little baseball into the plot, which is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned
  • For those that are skittish about needles, there is a brief scene where someone shoots up heroin.

Overall I enjoyed Flight and appreciated that this was a story that featured a lead character that was tough to like and a story that had a lot of gray area. While I don’t know that they necessarily stuck the landing (haha – a little airline humor), the film is worth checking out for Denzel Washington alone. He makes Whitaker a more complex character and while you are angry at a lot of his actions, you can’t help but pull for him to get it together.

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