Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds
Director: Robert Zemeckis
From the director of flicks as legendary and diverse as the ‘Back to the Future trilogy’ and 1994’s ‘Forrest Gump’ comes Flight; an intricately spun yarn about fate and the destructive cocktail of alcoholism and denial.
Captain William “Whip” Whittaker (Washington) is a veteran airline pilot with a history of substance abuse and over-drinking. One fateful morning, after a presumably rough night spent with an air hostess, a lot of booze and a few lines of cocaine for breakfast, Whittaker flies a plane with a severe mechanical fault in it. Through no fault of Whittaker’s, the plane comes down but the flawed yet skilled pilot manages to miraculously make an emergency landing in a field with few casualties.
Initially, Whittaker is hailed as a hero but inevitably, alcohol is found in his blood which was drawn during his recovery from the crash site. He is soon fighting to keep himself from going to prison on counts of professional negligence and multiple manslaughters – a life sentence.
As the film progresses at its steady, engaging pace it becomes clear that the struggle with his drinking problem is perhaps just as serious as that of the criminal charges against him as “Whip” slowly turns from a likeable albeit morally dubious protagonist to a loathsome and pathetic mess, estranged from his wife and son and leaving a trail of empty bottles and emotional wreckage in his wake.
Washington has received an academy nod for Best Actor for his portrayal of Captain Whittaker and it is well-deserved as this is unquestionably one of the best performances the actor has given in his already illustrious career. Whittaker is played with all the soul and sensitivity the role demands and Denzel Washington moves seamlessly between the character’s most decadent and most compassionate extremes. This is one of two nominations the film has attracted alongside Best Original Screenplay though the idea that such a crack-snorting, beer-swilling derelict has managed to keep his job as an airline pilot for so long is baffling. But then we wouldn’t have a story would we?
John Goodman joins the ride as a comforting comic-relief and Kelly Reilly plays a recovering heroin addict whose path meets Whip’s in hospital and who becomes an important source of support and encouragement to him.
The aeroplane scene is a spectacle in itself and a master class in suspense and drama, sure to put in any audience in the very seats of the doomed craft. I’m pretty sure the people I was sat in the same screen with, as well as myself, drew a collective breath and held it for minutes without realising. If you’ve seen the trailer and were expecting a story of intrigue, mystery and planes then think again. The core subject matter of this movie is without doubt one man’s harrowing battle against alcohol dependency.
On your way to a cinema this week? Then I strongly recommend Flight. However, if you’re expecting to board an aeroplane in the near future then… well… maybe hold off seeing it until after you come back.