Blallywood Film Review: Flight

by on November 6, 2012

I’m home in Virginia this week to visit my mother and to vote since Virginia is still considered my permanent address.  While home a family movie date is next to obligatory, and knowing my mother is an old-school Denzel Washington fan, my sister and I took her to see Flight.  And I’m pleased to report; the king has done it again.

Flight is the story of a troubled, divorced, and substance-abusing pilot who goes on a rich redemptive journey after miraculously landing a passenger plane, while drunk and high, that failed mid-air.  The days after the crash, be laden with guilt, Whip Whitlock is recluse on his grandfather’s farm as he is heralded a hero in the Atlanta media.  Meanwhile a legal battle is brewing over blame.  The lives of four passengers (out of 102) were loss on the flight and there is pressure to get justice for the families. Who’s to blame? The manufacturer? The airline? Or was the pilot himself incompetent or incapacitated?  When toxicology reports reveal that Whitlock was high and drunk during the flight, the airline hires a big-time attorney named Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to save the day and keep Whitlock out of jail. As the heated legal battle unfolds, Whitlock is forced to face his demons head-on like never before. He reaches his limit amidst a full federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and he finds himself simply unable to tell another lie.

Seeing movies with my mother can be a bit flinch inducing.  My mother, while fun loving and warm, is a socially conservative Southern woman.  Any nudity, profanity, or drug use can be extremely awkward when we’re watching a movie together.  She squirms a bit and pretends it doesn’t bother her, but my sister and I know better. This is especially true when it comes to her beloved Denzel Washington. My mother didn’t see Training Day because she just couldn’t envision golden boy as a crooked cop.  Well, this is crooked pilot. We see an exposed breast and an ashtray full of cigarette butts; we see Denzel Washington drink to excess and convincingly (to the point of awe) snort lines of cocaine. And that’s before the plane even takes off.  But what is so fantastic about this performance is the deep tragedy Washington finds in this character. In true superb fashion, Washington has found the heart of this broken man. Whitlock is in a line of piloting royalty. His grandfather flew with the Tuskegee Airmen and he learned to fly with his father in a private aircraft they assembled on his grandfather’s farm.  After years of flying in the navy, he has been reduced to flying passenger planes (for reasons unknown to the audience).  Estranged from his ex-wife and only son, alcohol is his solace and only escape.  He can’t function without alcoholic impairment to numb the pain of simply getting by.  Whitlock is in a severe fight with himself for control of his life.

Directed by Robert Zimeckis, perhaps best known for the giant that is Forrest Gump, this film goes beyond the realm of presenting a moral question; it rather makes us question ourselves, our flaws, our mistakes and reassures us that redemption takes many forms and can be a painful process.  If presented with the option to lie and secure your freedom or to admit a painful truth about yourself and keep your integrity, though it may mean severe punishment; what would you choose?  Most notable cinematic sequences would be the entire passenger flight from the moment of failure until the crash landing, the hotel sequence the night before the NTSB hearing, and the NTSB hearing scene in which Whitlock does a dangerous and dishonest dance in an attempt to save his freedom.  Definitely a film worth seeing! A.



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