Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
In this drama 'Flight' we are introduced to pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), and to be charitable… Whip is a mess.  A walking disaster just waiting to happen.  As the film opens Whip is awoken after a night of boozing and drugging with his lady friend Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), Whip begins his morning by boozing a little more while talking to his angry, bitter ex-wife and since he and Katerina the flight attendant have a morning flight to tend to, he does a couple of lines of cocaine to get himself right.  Whip… I tell you.

Since you've no doubt seen the trailer for 'Flight' you probably know that the plane Whip is flying, as it turns out, is a bigger mess than even he is.  In one of the more harrowing scenes of cinematic avionic disaster ever filmed, this flight is going down and 102 people are going to die and there's nothing anybody can do about it.  With the lone exception to this inevitable truth being Whip Whitaker.  Whip, drunk and drugged out, snaps into action, and with his brain and skills firing on all cylinders in perfect harmony, manages to do the impossible and lands this broken plane in an open field, tragically resulting in the loss of some life, but saving so many more.  He's a hero, the press wants to talk, he is loved, and he is cherished.  Yay!  Whip will eventually enjoy a drink in his own honor.

However Whip Whitaker is no fool, and while all the survivors of that flight probably owe him their lives, he knows he's in a world of trouble.  A plane did crash and life was lost so a toxicology scan is necessary, Whip just didn't figure it would happen while he was unconscious in the hospital.  Once the NTSB gets a hold of that tox report, hero or no hero, Whip is probably going to jail for an awful long time.  Whip handles this prospect by drinking a lot more.
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But not so fast my friends because we have a little something in this country called 'The Law' and Whip's good friend and union chief Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) has gone and hired the best lawyer around in Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) who specializes in making these types of things go away.  All Lang really needs to completely do his job is for his belligerent, self-destructive, uncooperative, asshole, dick of a client to work with him a little bit.  Just a little bit.  Whip has a drink to express his disgust.

That's not going to happen.  Whip Whitaker is an alcoholic of the worst order.  At the hospital he met a self-destructive drug addict in the lovely red-headed Nicole (Kelly Reilly) and they soon become lovers which probably isn't the best combination of personalities, but Whip is so screwed up even the heroin addict can barely deal with it.

But despite his laundry list of problems and his horrid behavior, Whip has bullied and lied and tap danced his way though this disaster and with the help of his slick lawyer he is on the verge of finagling his way out of this mess.  All he needs to do his hold on for one lousy NTSB review board.  That's it.  And he can go back to killing himself.  That Whip Whitaker… I tell you.

'Flight' was directed by Robert Zemeckis who you young people might not realize used to direct something other than MoCap cartoons.  In fact Robert Zemeckis making a live action movie again is a pretty big deal.  Robert Zemeckis making a movie with Denzel Washington, who is at the top his game in this movie, is a really big deal.  So with Robert Zemeckis behind the camera, Denzel Washington in front of it, Kelly Reilly going blow for blow with Denzel on the side and no less a set of luminary actors such as John Goodman and Don Cheadle hanging out for rock solid support…  Not to mention that God was kind enough to take time out his busy day and create Nadine Velazquez… why didn't I like 'Flight' more?

It's actually pretty simple, but kind of wacky to say, but that reason would be that Denzel Washington was too good in this movie.  I don't know if I've seen a character in a movie that was more pathetically frustrating to watch for two plus hours than Mr. Washington's portrayal of Whip Whitaker.  Part of this could be the fact that we are watching Denzel Washington, a legitimate movie star if ever there was one and a likable movie star at that, play this character who we really want to see straighten up and do right so we can root for him.  But he never does this.  You think he might, you hope he might, it looks like he might, but gosh darnit if they aren't playing this thing like its real life and real life is tough to watch.  Eventually you just have to come to grips that there's no hope for this man, that is until the film gets close to the end, of course, and then the machine takes over, but the drama sandwiched between that harrowing opening flight sequence and the almost equally as harrowing closing NTSB hearing, that was some miserable movie watching to get through. 

This next little bit has little to do with the actual content of 'Flight' but I did notice it and since I'm not overly observant there might be something to it, but there is an awful lot product being placed in this movie.  I think I noticed it first on the long, loving 70mm close up paid to Whip's I-Phone, but it just snowballed from there.  Most of it was liquor, maybe made more disturbing that I noticed most of the liquor simply from the shape of the bottles, which means I might have an issue that needs some tending too as well, but from Stoli to Hennessey to Grey Goose to Budweiser to Coca Cola as a chaser, I haven't see this much product placement since 'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold'.

But that's really neither here nor there, now is it?  Folks gotta make money, and if you pay your hard earned money to see 'Flight' just to see Denzel Washington work, then believe me when I tell you that you got yourself a bargain.  It's difficult to get through at times, believe that as well, but 'Flight' is ultimately a testament to an aging master still at the top of his craft.
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