Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle
Writer: John Gatins
Director: Robert Zemeckis
** and a 1/2 *'s out of four.
After years of doing safe somewhat movies for the public. Director Robert Zemeckis("Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Back to the Future") makes his first R rated feature. It is extremely well acted and Denzel Washington puts in a stellar performance, but it's message becomes somewhat heavy handed towards the end.
After a night of heavy drinking(this is not a spoiler because it happens in the first two minutes of the feature) pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) flies an airplane like he normally does. However on this journey, the aircraft has a malfunction and Whip uses quick judgement to make a landing as safely as he could. Out of all the passengers on that flight, only four died. Other pilots have tried to copy the same scenario and they have all failed. Was this just blind luck or was he the only one who could have saved those people. An investigation turns out that he did indeed have drugs in his system and could be facing a long sentence if he is convicted.
SPOILERS***** Be Warned, because I might give away certain plot elements and I don't want any angry comments.
Unlike most movies where they show a character with a drinking problem. This one at least gives you some understanding of why he would use. Yet his problem is so severe, even surviving a plane crash couldn't get him to stop In the hospital Whip meets Nicole(Kelly Reilly) a heroin addict whose overdose at the start of this movie does in a way matches that of his. She is on the road to recovery while he is on a downward spiral. There are two employees of the airline (Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle) who at first seem to want to help clear Whip of these charges, because they care for him. But it becomes clear by the end that all they want to do is just save their own asses.
I admire Mr. Zemeckis for making "Flight" and for going outside his own comfort zone to tackle a subject like this. However when it comes to movies about addiction. This fails in comparison to ones like "Requiem For a Dream" and "Shame". He uses a lot of very cliche elements when people are using, right down to having "Under The Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers on the soundtrack when Nicole is looking for a fix. Also when the drug dealer(John Goodman) first arrives. Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones can be heard through his headphones. The movie has tons of other music cues that help describe the action. Movies about drug addicts always has to end with either the addict going so far off the deep end all hell breaks lose or they have the tearful confessional. I knew since it was Zemeckis he was going to go the tearful route, and it works in this movie. Yet I would have gone at in another way. Instead of having a few people die during that first flight, they all live. This would cause the character of Whip to stop drinking and clean himself up. He gets through all the meetings, goes off the wagon in the middle, but still ends strong. Stronger then he has ever been before. Completely sober, he gets the chance to fly another plane. However during this one the plane malfunctions and everyone dies including Whip. I know this sounds really dark, but it would be a great conversation piece after it's done. Did alcohol and drugs help save those passengers the first time or was it all just luck. It's kind of eerie to think about, but it would make a cool movie.