Monday, September 05, 2016

Flight (2012)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I had wanted to see Flight in theaters.  It looked like an interesting premise.  A pilot played by Denzel Washington is able to safely land a plane, but catches flak for it.  I was interested to see how this played out.  I figured most of the movie would be about the aftermath, which it was.  I eventually got to rent the movie through Redbox.

The pilot’s name is Will “Whip” Whitaker.  He’s piloting an Orlando-to-Atlanta flight.  He manages to take off during heavy rain.  He’s able to skillfully land the plane when a mechanical failure occurs. He’s also drunk and stoned out of his mind the whole time.  Of the 108 people onboard the plane, only six die.  He managed, while impaired, to pull off what most people couldn’t even attempt sober.

That’s not the point, though.  He never should have been on that plane.  We know it. His lawyer and friends know it.  Whittaker even throws out all of his alcohol, but the message doesn’t seem to take.  He has no problem placing blame on a defective part.  (I suppose if I were facing the possibility of six felony counts, I would do the same.)

Most of the movie is spent preparing for an NTSB hearing.  This makes giving a detailed analysis difficult.  There’s a lot of legal maneuvering and a lot of trying to keep Whittaker sober.  This isn’t easy.  At the start of the movie, he finishes a warm beer and snorts a line.  While talking to passengers before takeoff, he makes a family-sized screwdriver.  (Before you leave a comment, he actually pours several mini vodkas into a large container of orange juice.)

Normally, I hate movies like this.  It’s painful to watch someone on a downward spiral.  The movie isn’t heavy handed about the alcoholism, though.  Yes, he makes a lot of bad choices.  Yes, every time he blames the mechanical failure, I know that he knows that he shouldn’t have been in the plane.  On the other hand, I found myself hoping that he’d avoid trouble.  He’s as functional as they come, but he had no business endangering over 100 people.  Here’s someone that should have gone to AA a long time ago, but has always found a reason not to.  (There was one point in the movie that I felt was a little painful to watch, but I can understand why it was included.)

This is not a movie for children.  Aside from the drugs and sex, there are a lot of things that young children wouldn’t understand.  They may not get the subtleties of the maneuvering.  They may not understand why or how Whittaker could come across as someone we could empathize with.  I think if I had seen this movie when I was 10 or 15, I would have had a totally different take on it.  I would have seen Whittaker simply as a drunk who happened to get lucky.  Which he is, in a way.  He’s a man who knows that he’s wrong, but can’t quite come to terms with his demons. 

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