Robert Zemeckis’ latest film, Flight, explores the role and affect of alcoholism in the life of airline captain William ‘Whip’ Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, and the winding course his life takes after performing the extraordinary crash-landing of SouthJet passenger flight 227 whilst drunk and high.
Although his heroic stunt is received positively at first, his intoxicated state is uncovered by blood tests at the hospital and the Airline attorney, played by the Don Cheadle, comes on board to try and micromanage the situation. But Whip’s alcoholism drastically increases, as does his denial of it, and he falls into a relationship with ex-addict Nicole, played by Kelly Reilly – a fellow patient he met at the hospital after the crash.
However, after an epic bender, Whip’s denial slowly transforms into acceptance and it leads to an unforeseen outcome for both the legal hearing investigating the crash-landing and Whip’s relationship – or lack thereof – with his son from his failed marriage.
Wow, that all sounds very serious…is it worth a watch ? Well, in short, yes…but maybe don’t get too excited. Flight is definitely an above-average film (but it only reaches this above-average status due to Denzel’s performance). Washington is, and always has been, an eminently watchable actor and his portrayal of Whip is no exception to this rule.
So he should win an Oscar for it then? No, I don’t think Denzel’s portrayal of Whip comes close to other standout performances in his career (e.g. Training Day) and fellow Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix’s harrowing portrayal of alcoholism in Paul Thomas Anderson’s flawed but worth-a-watch film The Master is, simply put, undeniably superior (see our review of The Master here).
That said, Flight certainly keeps things cooking – and it even delivers a decent meal – but it never sets the screen truly ablaze because it simply never steps outside of an all-too comfortable and somewhat predictable script and story arc.
To summarise, Flight is a well-acted and thoroughly watchable film that will certainly hold your attention (but may not linger in the mind for long after the credits roll).
Verdict: Two thumbs (nearly halfway) up.