Robert Zemeckis’s triumphant return to live action movies hit with a bang. Hailed as one of the best movies of 2012, Flight is the emotional tale of Denzel Washington trying to win another Oscar in this remake of Leaving Las Vegas. That’s how I see it at least. Did I like the movie? Keep reading to find out!
The movie begins with a shot of some awesome boobs, which I very much appreciate. It gets better when she stands up and walks right in front of the camera. However, I’m sad to report that there’s no Denzel dong in this scene which seems a bit unfair to anyone watching this who isn’t into ladies. I’m perfectly fine (and even grateful) when you put nudity in your movie, but I feel a bit bad about it when there’s clearly a chance for equal opportunity enjoyment.
Wait, there’s a movie I’m supposed to be reviewing right? Ok, so we get introduced to Captain Whip Whitaker who is one cool motherfucker. He’s banging hot chicks, doing drugs, wearing sunglasses, and also flying planes. Not the BEST mix of hobbies, but hey; when you combine Denzel’s innate swagger with Gimmie Shelter by The Rolling Stones, you can’t argue with anything he does. It’s like questioning an Indiana Jones scene when it has the John Williams music. You just can’t do that!
When Denzel gets on the plane, we cut to someone else who’s completely unrelated to our Captain (for the time being). This woman (Nicole) is a drug addict who does typical drug addict things for ten minutes. She goes to her supplier, gets harassed by her landlord, and takes enough drugs to put her in the hospital. I’m assuming they’re trying to draw a parallel between Captain Whitaker whose a successful addict, and this woman who’s a loser addict and the fact that this scene is just as long (if not loner) than the previous scene led me to believe that this was going to be a movie about that; Showing that addicts from high places are just as broken as those who are stuck in the gutter. Unfortunately she kinda fades out of the film towards the end, so the metaphor gets kind of lost.
After she gets her drugs we cut back to Denzel who is about to take off and is scaring the shit out of his co-pilot, though to be fair the dude’s hair is scaring the shit out of me.
After inhaling oxygen in front the dude, he takes off and they IMMEDIATELY run into trouble. It’s a pretty tense scene, but Captain Whitaker shows that he’s twice the pilot of anyone else even when wasted. It gives us further confidence in his character and when shit goes down later, it assures us that he is in no way guilty of what’s going to happen later. Shortly after that, the plane goes to shit and Denzel has to ride that fucker into a field while saving as many people as possible. It’s a fantastically executed scene that feels realistic in the right ways. It tightens your stomach watching it, yet it’s exciting because of how in command Denzel is in this scene. He knows exactly what the fuck he’s doing, boozed up or not. However, there is one thing about this scene that I really have a problem with. Out of 102 people on that plane, only 2 of the crew and 4 of the passengers die. The only one of the deceased that they name is the woman Whitaker was sleeping with at the beginning of the movie, Trina. How does she die? She gets out of her seat to help a child get strapped in. That’s right; she sacrificed herself for a child. Look, she’s the ONLY one of the dead who is named, so I think it’s perfectly fair to analyze what kind of message the movie is sending with this. We know only one thing about her before her death is that she slept with the main character. We also know they aren’t married so this was fornication out of wedlock. Am I the only one who sees the message as “A loose woman redeems herself by doing a proper maternal activity?” I KNOW WHAT THEY DO WITH HER LATER, but this really bugged me the first time I watched it.
I don’t know. It also feels like a convenient way to get her out of the movie and have her be an idyllic presence hanging over the entire movie. Ultimately, the movie is telling us that she’s more valuable as a symbol than as a character and I find it kind of bothersome.
After the horrific crash, Captain Whitaker wakes up in the hospital and is told the details of what happened. Here we meet the Airline Pilots Union rep, Charlie, who will be helping our hero through the fallout of what happened. We also meet Whitaker’s drug dealer, played by the one and only John Goodman, who looks like what would happen if Jeff Lebowski and Walter Sobchak got inside a teleporter at the same time.
His entrance is a bit on the nose though considering that they’re playing “Sympathy for the Devil” as he’s walking into the hospital. SUBTLETY!!! Even so, he’s a ray of dark sunshine that lightens the movie for the brief moments that he’s in it. He’s basically there to deliver some supplies to Whitaker which include booze, cigarettes, and porno mags. Oh, but Whitaker rejects the vodka. He’s gonna try going sober after what happened, and all I can say is best of luck to him! Later that night (he seems to be having the DTs), he wanders into the hospital stairwell to have a smoke where he runs into the woman we met earlier who ended up overdosing on the drugs she got (she’s smoking too). They have a moment where Denzel puts on his charm, when all of a sudden a cancer patient comes from the flight below and takes over the entire fucking scene. It’s really weird considering we never see this dude again and he doesn’t really have all that much to say besides what most people in movies with cancer say.
The next day, Whitaker gets his drug dealer to drive him to his family’s ranch which appears to have been abandoned for a while. Despite the fact that any report worth his salt would have found out where his parents used to live, he seems to have evaded the press for the time being. Once inside, he starts pouring all the alcohol and drugs he has down the drain in an effort to get off them cold turkey. It’s a bit odd that he’s playing “Ain’t No Sunshine” when doing so; I would have suggested “I’m Gonna Make It After All” but whatever. Later that day he gets a phone call from Charlie (the union rep) telling him that he has to meet with him in the morning. This is where we get introduced to Don Cheadle character who is probably the most interesting one in the movie. He plays Hugh Lang, an attorney hired by Charlie to help Whitaker through the criminal investigation that is about to take place. Since the company that manufactured the airplane doesn’t want to write a few checks for the people who got killed, they’re going to go after Whitaker and try to find anything that can be used against him, and we’ve already established that there is a SHIT TON of stuff to find. Out of anyone in this thing, he’s probably the closest to embodying what the audience is going through. He knows just as much as we do that despite Whitaker’s Blood Alcohol Level, there was nothing more he could do, and that what he did was absolutely amazing. He also sees this guy’s self-destruction and knows how completely flawed the man is. He’s torn between what he knows happened up there and his concerns about how this guy is going to fuck it all up. So the scene basically tells us that despite some evidence here and there, Hugh can keep Whitaker out of jail if he just takes it easy, does what he’s told, and stay off the booze. Pretty simple right? I mean he gave up the alcohol yesterday! Oh wait, he goes from that meeting straight to a bar.
So we can see where this movie is going for its second act. He’s gonna keep drinking, and progressively get worse. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is conducting their investigation, so there’s always tension that they’re going to find evidence at some point to hang Whitaker on four manslaughter charges (apparently the two crew members don’t count). It’s just tension being ratcheted up very slowly but very effectively and the movie is fantastic throughout this section. Whitaker ends up finding Nicole again who is getting harassed by her landlord again. Whitaker ends up taking her back to his ranch (still no press) and she stays there for most of the movie. She doesn’t have a lot to do other than give Denzel someone to interact with when he’s at home drinking, but the actress does well with the part. In fact, after a particularly nasty meeting with the head of the airlines, we cut to Whitaker sucking down a bottle of Jim Beam, barely keeping his shirt on, and watching home movies.
Hey! He may be drunk as a skunk, falling over tables, and acting like an idiot, but Denzel is STILL cooler doing all that than any of us will ever be. Still, it is a great scene especially when Nicole comes back and finds him in this state. You can tell that she’s been here before which is sad, but we appreciate her taking care of our incredibly flawed hero. Maybe I’m a bit naive, but throughout this movie, I never gave up hope on this guy getting his shit together so I always rooted for him. I know he’s an asshole and an addict, but the fact that he might end up going to jail for only saving 96 people was enough of a motivation for me to tell the rest of the world to fuck off and to leave him alone… or get him to AA.
The next big thing to happen in this is him attending the funeral of the two crew members who died in the crash. We meet up with one of the stewardesses who was there and have a great scene with her. She knows like almost everyone else what Whitaker did was damn near impossible, but there comes a point where Whitaker is basically asking her to lie for him if they start asking questions about his condition on the day of the flight.
See, this movie is mostly about addiction and how it slowly erodes away at you, but I also think that it’s about moral high grounds. Everyone in this movie is looking for the answer that makes them feel the best, and none of them find it. Everyone wants to admonish Whitaker for drinking and doing drugs, but they all know in their hearts that it had nothing to do with the crash. The only people who are absolutely certain of his guilt have no interest in justice. All they care about is their bottom line. This scene illustrates that when the stewardess (Margaret) is thankful for saving her life, but still wants to admonish him for drinking. She’s torn between what she knows happened, and what the truth could end up doing. On the one hand, he’s not a healthy person. On the other hand, telling the truth would send him for jail for the rest of his life, despite the fact that there’d be a shit ton more coffins if anyone else flew that plane. She seems to be convinced into lying for him, but the movie never comes back around to her so we never know what she said or even if she was questioned by the NTSB.
We follow this up with a similar scene at the hospital. The copilot has just woken up and it turns out that he and his wife are both Jesus freaks, so their disgust for the boozing low life is quite apparent. They tongue lash him for a bit, I’m sure feeling very self-satisfied for talking down to someone, before completely backpedaling and saying that the crash was a sign from God or some shit, and tells him that they won’t say anything to the NTSB. I’m not quite sure what this scene was supposed to accomplish, because all I got out of it was that overly religious folk are VERY condescending and feel superior to everyone (like I didn’t know that already).
At this point Whitaker is feeling pretty good about his situation and continues to hit the booze. Nicole tries to tell him that he’s got a problem, but he ends up exploding over it and she leaves the next morning. This puts Whitaker in a pretty bad mood and he ends up going to his ex-wife’s house to see his son. Neither of them want anything to do with him, and it’s a pretty heartbreaking scene where he’s trying to get in their good graces, but he’s either too fucked up because of the booze or because of all the other shit he’s been piling up like a negativity beer can pyramid, that he ends up snapping at them and leaves almost in handcuffs. The press finally catch up to him, and he’s forced to go to the union rep’s house to wait out the next two weeks for his hearing that is the linchpin to him either going to jail or going free. We cut to the night before the hearing where they decide it’s a great idea to leave the alcoholic alone for a night in a hotel room. Don’t worry though, because the minibar has been stocked with water and soda! Good idea, except that someone (FATE!?) left the door to the connecting hotel room unlock whose mini bar is just LOADED with alcohol.
He stares at a tiny bottle of vodka for a while before putting it down and going back to his own room. He’s faced his demons and conquered them. He’s ready for the hearing, and he’s gonna turn over a new leaf. Oh no wait, he goes back and drinks it, on top of every mother fucking bottle in that minibar.
I honestly think that considering what happens next (and the little clue at the beginning of the movie), that John Goodman stocked that god damn fridge. I just can’t imagine a hotel stocking THAT much booze AND NOTHING ELSE in a single minibar. Not only that, but Goodman probably hasn’t seen his customer in a while (we don’t see Whitaker use drugs since the beginning) so maybe this was a way for Goodman to get back in his life. The next morning, Charlie and Hugh come to take Whitaker to the hearing when they find him drunk to the point where he fell and smashed his head on the toilet. They have to clean him up in time for the hearing in forty five minutes, and Whitaker has a solution. In comes John Goodman (how convenient!) who gives him cocaine as well as home remedy to kill the hangover.
It actually works and Whitaker makes it to the hearing. It goes pretty well for Whitaker, and it looks like he’s going to get away with it. However, one piece of evidence they found was two tiny vodka bottles found in the trash, which shouldn’t be there considering that drink services were canceled on the flight due to the bad turbulence at the start. Naturally, Whitaker was the one to drink it, but since Hugh was able to cover up the tox screen, the NTSB want to pin the bottles on Trina. Remember her? The woman who was sleeping with him and died saving a child? Yeah, this is what that as all leading up to. The NTSB wants Whitaker to confirm that she was a drinker and that she was probably the one to drink the bottles in question. Whitaker, unwilling to disgrace her name, finally spills the beans about him being drunk during the flight.
What happens next REALLY sticks in my craw. After that we fade to sixteen months later where he’s in jail and is speaking in an AA meeting. See, the movie cops out here because despite the fact that Don Cheadle said REPEATEDLY that he would got jail for manslaughter, he’s only in jail for six years. There’s no way he would have been convicted for manslaughter and gone to jail for only six years, which means he was convicted for flying the plane drunk, which IS a crime and has a sentence of about six years. Not only that, but he’s been sober the entire time, Nicole came back and visits him frequently, and his ex-wife and son are back in his life. He’s not even sad about being in jail because to quote him “This is going to sound real stupid coming from a man locked up in prison, but for the first time in my life, I’m free.” The movie ends with his son coming to visit him and asking him to be the subject of his college essay, so all is right with the world I guess.
I’m glad the guy finally found some peace and maybe going to jail was necessary. I just don’t buy that everything we’ve been rooting against happening turned out so well for him. He’s been an alcoholic for, presumably, the last twenty years. His family forgave him after only one year of sobriety? How the hell did he get around the manslaughter charges which would have landed him in jail for the rest of his life? I’m not saying it’s impossible, by the movie literally fades into a happy ending instead of working towards one.
I may be a bit down on this movie in the review, but I really did enjoy it. Denzel Washington is one of our greatest living actors and he proves it in this movie. Zemeckis knows how to bring this character to the lowest of lows without making it overly depressing or histrionic, meaning he can tell us a dark and emotionally draining story without turning the movie into a depressing slog. Even though I have my problems here and there, it’s still defiantly worth seeing and I recommend you check it out.