I figured this movie would have used the plane landing in the river in
as its inspiration, but the writer (John Gatins) claims instead that he had written it years before. He spent a flight next to a pilot who was deadheading and the guy kept telling him about all his troubles. At first Gatins didn’t want to hear any of that, but afterwards he starting thinking of a story that showed pilots were people that had problems just like the rest of us. New York City
Flight opens with Whip Whitaker (Washington) and Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez) being woken up. Both obviously partied hard with each other the night before. Some bluenoses have ridiculously complained about the nudity when Marquez gets out of bed. First, the film is rated R. Second, how many people who pass out after having drunken sex put their clothes back on before passing out? Third, once she comes back from the bathroom, she does start to dress.
Whip is very hungover and snorts a line of coke to actually get himself going. He’s got a plane to fly in a couple of hours, after all, and he needs to be alert. When he gets to the plane we find that Marquez is one of the flight attendants. The co-pilot is someone Whip has never worked with before. They get off the ground in very bad conditions, and Whip then decides to raid the pantry for some more alcohol. Once things are going smoothly he takes a nap.
Things don’t stay smooth, though. All of a sudden the plane is in a hard, nose down dive. The co-pilot is freaking out, but Whip is almost preternaturally calm. He instructs both the co-pilot and a flight attendant he calls in on what he needs them to do. He ends up inverting the plane (flying it upside down) to halt the dive. He then manages to crash land in a field, losing only 6 of the more than 100 people on board.
Whip is injured in the crash. He wakes up in the hospital a hero to everyone except the people involved with the airline. They know an investigation is coming and everyone is going to blame everyone else. Toxicology reports were done on all of the crew after the crash. Naturally Whip’s would come back seriously bad. Even though he saved most everyone on board (and the film even implies that it might have been precisely because of his condition that he was able to do it) Whip being intoxicated is very bad and the plane’s manufacturer will come after him to try to get themselves off the hook.
The plane crash happens early on, and while it is intense, it doesn’t last all that long. Most of the film is spent in the aftermath as Whip tries to deal with dodging the media, trying to change his lifestyle for the better, starting to connect with a woman he meets in the hospital (Kelly Reilly), and also just trying to deal with still being alive. He is seriously disturbed by the fact that his drinking during the flight might land him in jail for the rest of his life for manslaughter, even though the plane was defective.
Supporting Washington in this film are Bruce Greenwood as his boss and friend, Don Cheadle as a lawyer brought in to try to protect Whip from charges, Melissa Leo as the person in charge of the investigation, and John Goodman as Whip’s drug supplier. Goodman has a couple of humorous scenes in the film, accompanied by very fitting music.
also gets some fitting music a couple of times. By the way, I believe this is the first time Washington and Cheadle have worked together since they made the film Devil in a Blue Dress (1995). If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend you check it out. Cheadle is outstanding in it, and Washington was able to still play in a smaller kind of film at the time. Washington
I mentioned at the top that the ending almost undoes the entire movie. It just came across as an incredible cop out – moralistic for the sake of being moralistic, not realistic. After spending an entire film showing the lengths Whip was willing to go to in order to cover up and lie about his substance abuse, he confesses in court during live testimony when all he has to do is answer one question “I don’t know” – something he had already done a minute before.
Yes, the film tries to say that he doesn’t want to blame a woman who died for something he did, but he doesn’t have to. All he has to say is “I don’t know”. He could still decide to get clean without sabotaging his own defense and going to jail. It really feels like the ending is tacked on and that it doesn’t belong at all with the entire rest of the film. Unfortunately, it’s not like you can skip this part, since it is the climax of the film.
Despite the problems with the ending it doesn’t destroy the entire film. As I said, Flight is worth seeing for
’s performance. He really does a good job as a man struggling, and often losing, to the demons that drive him. As long as you don’t expect this to be an action film (aside from the plane crash scene) then you should be okay. If it sounds interesting then I recommend you give it a try. Washington
Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
DVD Blu-ray Instant Video
DVD Blu-ray Instant Video