Nov 2, 2012

A cautionary tale about the tyranny of addiction whether in the sky or on the land.

Grade: B
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future)
Screenplay: John Gatins (Real Steel)
Cast: Nadine Velazquez (A Day in the Life), Denzel Washington (Safe House)
Rating: R
by John DeSando

“Nobody could've landed that plane like I did.” Whip (Denzel Washington)

Yes, there is a crash suiting the exceptional action talents of director Robert Zameckis—the reality is palpable for all of us who fear we may go down someday.  No, this is not much about “flight,” or perhaps it is in a figurative way a ‘flight” from reality—alcoholic-drugs addictive captain Whit Whitaker (Denzel Washington), for whom the accident serves as a vehicle to defend himself against the accusations of the NTSB and litigants for the four dead passengers who will accuse him of DUI.

Contrary to the expectations of plot summary and trailers, Flight is about a man out of control, badly in need of intervention but so adept a lying, so powerful as a veteran pilot, that even his co-pilot dares not challenge his coming drunk to work.  Once the spectacular crash occurs, with the heavy-handed clipping of a church steeple just so you know he is figuratively a sinner, the film slides into a long exposition of a man who cannot say “no” to booze or drugs. The old tropes about addiction get tiresome, especially after the adrenalin-induced flight sequences.

Until the NTSB hearing, the action has stopped, and Denzel does a credible of making us resent his excess.

Few film actors are a watchable as Denzel, and here he is no disappointment.  He almost underplays the arrogance of a captain who can put hundreds of lives at risk, yet he also shows the vulnerability of a good man gone bad. As the film turns out, you should be pleased with his fate, but you may never ride a plane in complete comfort again when you see the flight attendants wheeling the cart with mini booze bottles.

“This thing is so heavy it's killed me.” Whip

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
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