By: Lawrence Foster
Rating: 7 out of 10
Oh, those tricky marketers.
Watching the trailers for Flight, it would be easy to assume that this film is more about disaster and mystery, but the reality is it is about addiction — and is better off for it.
Director Robert Zemeckis sets the tone from the beginning as pilot Whip Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington in what will probably be an Oscar- nominated role, drinks some beer and does some cocaine after a wild night with flight attendant Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez).
Despite his wild night, Whitaker deems himself fit to fly 102 people to Atlanta in a wicked thunderstorm. After a rocky takeoff, Whitaker reassures the passengers and proceeds to consume even more alcohol.
I won’t spoil the highlights of the horrifying crash sequence other than to say that Whitaker makes a series of decisions that ends up salvaging what is a doomed flight.
After the crash, Whitaker is viewed as a hero, but as the audience finds out, Whitaker’s behavior wasn’t an aberration: He is an alcoholic and drug abuser, which stands as the main reason why his wife and son have cut off contact with him.
While Whitaker is going through his literal crash with the jet, Nicole (Kelly Reilly) is going through a crash of her own because of drug abuse. As fate would have it, Whitaker and Nicole meet in the stairwell of the hospital they are being treated at, which ultimately results in a relationship.
The relationship is one of the highlights of the film as Nicole, having hit rock bottom after overdosing on heroin, tries to get her life on the right track, while Whitaker fails miserably in his attempt to beat his addictions by himself and falls deeper into said addictions.
Not exactly what the previews showed, is it?
It gets worse as Whitaker continues his own personal nose dive. The proud pilot continually shows no ability to control his addictions despite claiming that he can stop when he wants to.
It gets so bad that the night before his hearing to determine what caused the jet crash, under watch of a body guard and a strict no alcohol order from his lawyer Hugh Lang (an underused Don Cheadle) and pilot union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), Whitaker finds a (too convenient) way to get hammered out of his mind.
What really makes this film stand out is how most everyone can relate to the film. Much like cancer, alcoholism, and to a lesser extent drug abuse, has touched almost everyone in some way and that helps deliver on a emotional level with the audience.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that Whitaker’s drug dealer Harling Mays (John Goodman) is the definition of a screen-stealer in his limited time actually on the screen.
Flight hits the mark thanks to a spectacular and harrowing crash sequence, an Oscar-worthy performance from Washington and a story of abuse that connects with the audience. Just be aware that the film is far darker than the previews would have you believe.