If you haven’t seen the trailer for “Flight,” the IMDB synopsis is more than a little misleading.
To paraphrase, Denzel Washington (“Safe House”) is Whip Whitaker, a pilot for a commercial airline who saves his plane full of passengers from crashing. When investigations into the plane malfunctions begin, something troubling is uncovered.
It sounds like the movie will turn into some kind of conspiracy plot where Whip is either responsible or framed for the crash and the rest of the movie is spent uncovering the truth.
It’s only half right.
Whip is actually an alcoholic and drug addict who, after a full night of boozing, does some cocaine to perk himself up in the morning before his flight. After saving nearly everyone onboard the plane in the crash, his toxicology screening reveals the substance abuse and questions are raised about whether an aircraft malfunction caused the nosedive or his substance abuse. The rest of the movie follows Whip during the investigation and trial, as well as his struggles with addiction.
The plot is mainly a character study of an addict, but the search for truth story is woven in to the mix to give the film balance.
Washington is wonderful as Whip. He is angry, confused and hurt. His reputation and pride are stomped on, and Washington makes it seem real. The hostility he shows to certain characters, such as his lawyer, Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle, “Iron Man 2”), is curt and palpable, but always laced with an undertone of desperation. In some cases, even helplessness is felt through his words.
Washington’s acting is fantastic. While he makes you despise Whip in many regards, he still holds your interest and keeps you rooting for him in the long run. That takes more than a little skill.
It also takes a lot for Cheadle to make Hugh a likeable character, but he also pulls it off. He’s a lawyer, but he doesn’t seem to like Whip as a person. Despite having an open respect for the phenomenal maneuver his client does to save his passengers, he is grieved by Whip before the trial.
This is more than reasonable, but when you’re sympathetically rooting for Whip to succeed, it’s hard to like a guy who keeps reminding him he’s in serious trouble. Despite his frankness and initial lack of sympathy, Hugh builds a rapport with the audience that carries through the movie.
The majority of the movie has very little action — the plane crash itself is the height of it — but the characters are intense and interesting enough to keep viewers satisfied, so long as they understand what they are getting into.
If you were debating about whether to see the movie, do so. It’s engaging, and definitely worth the ticket price.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Release Date: Nov. 2, 2012
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle