Review No. 419
The Bottom Line: Cancel it.
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: John Gatins
William “Whip” Whitaker: Denzel Washington
Hugh Lang: Don Cheadle
Ellen Block: Melissa Leo
Nicole Maggen: Kelly Reilly
Harling Mays: John Goodman
Charlie Anderson: Bruce Greenwood
Also Starring: Brian Geraghty, James Badge Dale, Nadine Velazquez, Peter Gerety, Tamara Tunie
Distributed by Paramount Pictures on November 2, 2012. Poduced in English by the United States. Runs 138 mins. Rated R by the MPAA for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence.
“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.” –Denzel Washington
Flight was watched on February 16, 2013.
Flight went in with an excess of cash and a huge plate to fill; instead, it starved itself. Okay, I mustn’t start off making the film seem so emaciated. It does have two substantial nutrients. One, of course, is Denzel Washington. I’m very pleased and not at all surprised to see that the Academy has nominated him, but let’s not state the obvious. The other nutrient of the film is something I’m quite surprised I hadn’t come across at all since Flight’s November 2012 release. These were the film’s last lines (yes, as in they don’t show until the very end). I’d love to quote them right now, but as I’m at the very beginning of this analysis, to do so is to run the risk of misleading you, dare I say to make you curious.
If I shall be straightforward, Flight is a stillborn drama, often times exhaustingly so. I’m fine with protagonists who we’re clearly supposed to hate. Fact: I developed a chronic Facebook aversion after watching The Social Network, and at the same time, the film happens to be one of my favorites of 2010.
My problem with Whip Whitaker, the supposed “hero” in Flight, is that he’s as flat as a pancake. That is until the final moments, when a few contrived moments redemption are forced in ever so suddenly, and in a way that couldn’t be very much less convincing. That Washington portrays Whitaker flawlessly—let alone keeps an audience awake—is about as miraculous as the happenings on which the film centers.
Please allow me to give some constructive criticism to Flight. It’s my theory that what was intended to show through in this overlong profile could be far more successfully channeled in merely the first thirty minutes. It takes significantly more than two hours for Whip Whitaker to have the same epiphany we’d had at the thirty-minute mark. Is this supposed to suggest that alcohol slows your reaction time? Seems so to me, but I digress.
The first thirty minutes are really all we need. We find Whip, a divorced man, waking up in his room with a depressed heroin addict. He no longer has a family because of his cocaine addiction and alcoholism. Whip receives a phone call, reminding him that he is to pilot a plane in the morning. He’s already had two glasses of wine, and when he reports the next morning, there’s severe turbulence. Whip pours himself more alcohol to calm himself.
And then, before he knows it, the plane is falling apart and cannot be taken out of a nosedive. Ultimately, Whip is confirmed a “hero” for his deeds. He and the crew were willing to endure comas from the massive impact upon crashing, so long as the passengers remained safe. Unfortunately, he’s also on trial for manslaughter, given that six lives were lost; it’s not likely that, if and when he makes it to court, the passengers will be so swift to support him, since those who lived were no less than mentally scarred by the barrel roll Whip put the plane into.
This is where Flight should have landed, once and for all. The moral is that alcohol can destroy you right before your eyes; no matter how quickly you recover from your physical wounds, that one mistake you made will always be there to tear you apart. Strangely enough, the rest of the film finds Whip so depressed, so isolated from every possible community that he’s drinking straight from the bottle all the time—exactly the reason for all the catastrophe in his life. At several points throughout the film, Whip denies that the accident was due to his drunkenness, and that it was because the plane was malfunctioning. Though true the claim may be, we just can’t believe him, not because he’s inebriated, but because he’s been almost begging for us to hate him for the entire picture’s length.
Flight is based on a true story. I’m sure many nominal bits were diced here and there, but if the real-world Mr. Whitaker was ever considered a “hero,” this film has done a huge disservice to him. I’m sure Mr. Whitaker was something more than an ordinary, depressed alcoholic, particularly since he has an entire film to his name. It becomes clear early on that the end could be one of two things. To put it shallowly, either Whip is arrested, or he’s proven innocent. Sometimes it’s a good thing when I don’t care how a film will end. That’s not the case with Flight.
The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, and I know some of his characters by heart. If the real-world Whip Whitaker was hoping to be Hollywoodized as the new Forrest Gump or Marty McFly, chances are he deserved better.