Washington Soars in Flight

Posted on November 20, 2012 by

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A hung over, naked man wakes up in a trashy motel outside an airport in Florida.

A beautiful woman wakes up beside him. She reminds him they have a nine o’clock flight. She is the flight attendant; he is the pilot. After taking a swig of vodka and snorting a line of coke, he’s ready to fly a plane.

In his first live action film since 2000’s Cast Away, this is the raw opening scene to Flight, the new film from director Robert Zemekis.

Flight is a dark film that pulls no punches and is anchored by Denzel Washington’s brave performance.

Washington plays pilot Whip Whitaker who, at first, seems like a gifted pilot but is proven to be a bit reckless.  What proceeds is an intense action sequence in which the plane breaks down in flight and Whitaker manages to miraculously land it by flipping the plane.

This tragedy looms heavy over the rest of the film and sets in motion the dark theme that runs throughout.

Whip is hailed as a hero after the crash for saving the lives of most on board, but his parade suffers a downpour when his blood is tested after the flight.

The film invites us to ponder, Could he have landed it if he wasn’t drunk? Does he deserve to be punished?

This is definitely Washington’s show, but he is surrounded by a strong cast as well, including John Goodman delivering much needed comic relief as his goofy drug connect.

Don Cheadle also gives a strong performance as a lawyer from Chicago assigned to defend Whip, but who ends up clashing with him.

One sub-plot, however, stands out as irrelevant and unbelievable. Whip befriends a heroin addict in the hospital after the crash. She moves in with him at his grandfather’s farm, where he stays to evade the press. The fact that someone now in national spotlight develops a serious relationship with a drug addict is unbelievable.

Other than that, the film flows nicely.

Still, the movie isn’t an easy film to watch because of the main character’s self-destructive behavior and the excessive drug and alcohol abuse.  It also does not provide easy answers.

The film would not have been quite as believable without the powerful performance from Washington, who allows flashes of humanity to peek through the rough exterior and make him somewhat sympathetic.

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