Saturday, November 03, 2012

Movie Review: “Flight”

From what I know about aeronautics, this movie requires a slight suspense of disbelief, but boy—if you can get past the thought of a pilot being able to do a barrel-roll in an airliner that wasn’t built for that type of maneuver, you will enjoy this movie.  Certainly Denzel Washington deserves another Oscar.

Captain William “Whip” Whitaker is a seriously messed up man.  A former Navy Top Gun, he reports for duty still drunk and high on cocaine from a night of debauchery.  He adds double vodka to his orange juice in-flight, yet he saves the lives of all but six of the 102 passengers and five crew members aboard his aircraft.  Ten other pilots worked the problem in simulators after the accident, and every one of them crashed, killing everyone on board.  The man is a hero with a damning toxicology report taken the night of the accident.

Was he responsible for those deaths?  Or was it a mechanical failure?  They took off in a bad thunderstorm with horrible turbulence.  Could lightening have struck something in the tail?  It was pouring when he did his pre-flight external check of the airplane.  Did he miss something vital?  That was the question I kept asking myself throughout the movie as Whip struggled with his disease—refusing to admit he had a problem, refusing all offers of help, burning all his bridges, insisting no one else could have saved the lives of those people and it didn’t matter whether or not he was under the influence when he flew that plane.  They gave him a defective aircraft and he landed it with most of the passengers and crew alive.  Why did people keep telling him he had to stay sober?  Why weren’t people congratulating him?  Why’d they keep harping about the booze and the drugs?  Couldn’t they see he was okay?  What did they mean, he could go to prison for manslaughter for killing six people?  What about the other hundred people he saved?

This movie kept me on the edge of my seat, and I couldn’t decide whether I liked or hated Whip.  He wasn’t a mean drunk, at least not most of the time.  He “maintained” pretty well.  He had reached the point in his alcoholism where he needed a minimum amount of booze in his system to look normal and function at all.  He was a very complex man and while you hated what he’d done, you still kind of found yourself pulling for him.  While you didn’t really want to see him go to prison, you weren’t sure you wanted to board a plane he was piloting, either.  Or did you?  Ten other pilots would have crashed, killing everyone else on board.  Who else could have saved those people’s lives?  Drunk or sober—he had a point.  “Nobody could have landed that plane but me."

But did he miss something during pre-flight?  Would the plane have crashed at all if he’d been sober?  Would he have found the defect before they took off and asked for a different aircraft?  Or did lightening strike something at the beginning of the flight that worked its way loose and finally came off when they started their descent?  Or was there something wrong in a place he wouldn’t have been able to see during pre-flight?  Those questions floated through my brain throughout the movie.  You'll have to see the movie to find out.  I'm not telling.

This is one really great movie!

Directed by:  Robert Zemeckis
Written by:  John Gatins


  1. I knew when I saw the trailer and learned that Denzel Washington was in the movie that it would be anything but mediocre. The characters he portrays rarely disappoint and from what I understand, he is the same kind of man. Thanks for the review!

  2. Hi, Susan. Tell me what you think after you see the movie--if you can without giving away the ending. ;-)