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
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.