Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker
Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thompson
John Goodman as Harling Mays
Kelly Reilly as Nicole Maggen
Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang
Nadine Velazquez as Katerina Marquez
Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson
In theaters November 2
For Captain Whip Whitaker it’s just a typical day on a short-run flight from Florida to Georgia, until something goes wrong. The plane inexplicably encounters a malfunction that causes it to pitch into a dive. Controls are compromised and only the miracle of quick thinking and ingenuity on the part of the Captain, with help from the co-pilot and a flight attendant (Tunie), saved most of the lives on board.
Whip pulls an impossible stunt that brings the plane down with the minimum of casualties. Something that no other pilot could ever do, Whip executed with precision. He is a hero, but as the investigation into the crash begins, so does Whip’s nightmare. A blood toxicology report reveals that Whip was high on cocaine and drunk at the time of the crash. A fact that makes him responsible for the crash and the lives lost. If this information gets out, Whip could end up in prison on manslaughter charges. Whip’s pilot union rep (Greenwood) engages a criminal attorney (Cheadle) to help Whip get through this crisis without major damage to his career or to the airline. The airline must appear to be as blameless as possible to avoid paying out huge settlements to survivors’ families who may sue. So they go into overtime to prove the ultimate cause of the crash was due to equipment failure and nothing else, but as Whip’s life is continually being put under the microscope, his integrity comes into play. We are left wondering if Whip is a hero or if he is an alcoholic in need of help.
This starts like the typical template for a Denzel Washington film: Cocky guy at the top of his field, best of the best, no one can touch him. He’s got the world by the tail and no one can tell him different because the rules don’t apply to him. The character in this particular case then gets thrown into an impossible situation that any normal pilot could not handle without everyone ending up dead. It is evident though, that our pilot does have a drinking problem, the extent of which becomes more and more evident as the film wears on. He tells himself that he can handle this situation, but it is clear that he is circling the drain. As the investigation gets deeper and deeper, he is frantically trying to cover his tracks everywhere. His union rep, who is a friend, tries to help, but the only respite in the madness Whip has comes in the form of a friendship he develops with a recovering heroin addict (Reilly) that he met in the hospital while he was recovering from the crash. She offers Whip support as she tries to turn her life around, but like most addicts, Whip is reluctant to see that his drinking is a problem. As the federal hearing into the crash investigation gets closer and closer, we wonder if Whip will do the right thing and take responsibility for his actions, if he will go along with the cover up.
Much, much over-hyped by other reviews, Flight is, pure and simple, a story of addiction and redemption. It is a good film, but certainly not the second coming. Denzel is, well, Denzel. He always give a sterling performance no matter what he does (I guess), so it’s safe to say if you are a fan of his work, you will not be disappointed. This movie could not miss with Robert Zemeckis as director. With such movies under his belt as the “Back To The Future” series, “Forrest Gump,” and “Cast Away,” “Flight” marks the first live action film he has directed since “What Lies Beneath” in 2000. His last three films have all been computer generated animation. I must admit that the soundtrack was way cool with hits from talent such as The Rolling Stones, Bill Withers, Joe Cocker, Marvin Gaye, and The Cowboy Junkies, to name a few. If you dig Denzel, you will probably like this film. And even if you’re not a Denzel fan, this is a very, very good story. It manages to be engaging, suspenseful and sometimes hilarious thanks to John Goodman in the role of Whip’s lifelong buddy and drug dealer, but don’t believe all the hype.