Flight | Movie Review

With the holidays here and people booking more flights now than any other time of the year, viewers would be justified in questioning why Paramount Pictures would release a film about a pilot with a drug and alcohol addiction who manages to land a crashing plane. However, viewers would also be shortsighted to conclude that this is all “Flight” has to offer. Denzel Washington’s convincing performance as pilot Whip Whitaker, our flawed hero, masters the art of character, placing a mirror before us all.

“Flight” is quick to denounce its label as a tale of heroism. Our “hero,” Whitaker, is anything but a knight in shining armor. Visibly hung-over, lit cig in hand, while lying in a hotel bed next to his naked stewardess, we meet Whitaker. Washington adds his branded charm and charisma to Whitaker’s character swaying viewers to find a liking for the pompous pilot. Whitaker has a flight first thing in the morning and grabs a cocktail of cocaine, liquor, coffee, and aspirin for breakfast.

What viewers witness next is both vivid and surreal, rivaling any action film of 2012. We are placed aboard Whitaker’s aircraft. The scene has been set; a storm has already been brewing in the sky since the morning. There isn’t a video game simulation that could match the realness of what proceeds next as things go horribly wrong and the flight takes an ill-fated dive. But it is here, in these moments, that we come to know why Whitaker is the man for this job. “Ride ‘em Cowboys!” yells Whitaker amidst the turbulence. With astonishing but unorthodox moves, such as flying the plane upside down, Whitaker lands the plane saving all but six lives. “You saved my mom’s life,” a little boy later tells Whitaker. It is after the crash that the film truly takes “flight.”

As the National Transportation Safety Board begins investigating the crash and toxicology reports are revealed, the question arises: Was an intoxicated Whitaker to blame for the planes plummet? The next hour and a half is a powerful journey of humility and acceptance where Whitaker, facing six counts of manslaughter and life in prison, must question himself for the first time. Actors John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and Kelly Reilly add humor, brilliance, and endearment respectively.

From liftoff, to climax, and landing, “Flight” is a profound story of finding one’s self. Whitaker not only has to face his addiction but his past. Washington successfully embodies the role of Whitaker, creating a character of species rather than individual; a character we can all relate to in some way. We’ve all got our demons and the coping methods to go along with them. “Flight” stirs the question in all of us, “What am I in denial of?”