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'Flight' Film Review

Contributing Writer

Published: Friday, November 2, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 07:11

In the opening scene, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) manages to squeeze in a few hard stares at his naked, flight attendant companion (Nadine Velazquez), an irate phone call with his ex-wife about money for his son and a line of cocaine all before his 9 AM flight.

From his Florida hotel room, the Atlanta-bound pilot treks through the rain to his aircraft and embarks on a jarring ride that goes from being rattled by turbulence to smooth enough sailing for a nap which he graciously takes after his Smirnoff and OJ. That flight ends in a crash landing only Whitaker could have executed that seems to lurch all viewers into the blood-stained cockpit.

Following the flight, Whitaker opens his red eyes to watch the events from his hospital room television. Reporters label him a hero but he is quickly brought down to earth when he meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly) while on a smoke break in the hospital stairwell. The heroin addict mistakes him for a backseat passenger on the flight he piloted and they eventually have a lukewarm, romantic relationship marred by the difference between recovering from addiction and being in the midst of alcoholism.

The Georgia-based film features the hovering fear of toxicology reports as the loss of life leaves victims and their loved ones seeking amends. Whitaker and his union have Chicago lawyer Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) on the messy case as all await a hearing that will decide if Whitaker walks free due to the malfunctioning of a faulty aircraft or spends the rest of his life in prison for manslaughter.

Alcohol, heroin, cocaine, and a slew of cigarettes —one of which is smoked by a rather introspective cancer patient —come out to play as director Robert Zimeckis of Back to the Future and Forrest Gump fame weaves the world of addiction with that of the trouble of blame and responsibility.

Beyond Denzel Washington delivering an impeccable performance as a troubled, suffering, arrogant and heroic estranged father and struggling addict, the film hits high on no-mess direction and a few hearty laughs, some courtesy of his supplier and friend Harling Mays played by John Goodman.

One of the most blatant messages conveyed by the film itself is that of trust —not between characters or between actor and role, but between the film and the audience. Viewers always have the opportunity to choose how they might digest a scene, action or dialogue as no single character or image provides an inherent choice. At any moment, is Whitaker right or wrong? A bonafide hero or an inconsiderate alcoholic? Disturbing or illuminating? It is as if the film poses several questions and simply remarks, “You decide” knowing that it might not be that easy of a decision.


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