Summary: Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), an alcohol and drug-abusing pilot, lands a defective plane, saving many “souls.” However, his skills are questioned when it is revealed he was under the influence.
Review: Denzel Washington returns to theaters today in the thrilling drama Flight. Directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by John Gatins, this exploration of morals and flaws is fascinating to watch and the Oscar winner is effortlessly memorable. The movie as a whole is more misses than hits, but the thespian perfection of Washington steers the film away from a cinematic crash-landing.
Cinematically, the best moment is a terrifying plane crash scene that is sure to haunt frequent travelers — what Psycho did for motel showers is what Flight will do for the “friendly” skies. But Flight stumbles here and there with questionable plot twists (a dramatic congressional hearing, Whip’s Lifetime-ish struggle with alcoholism and a hard to explain union conflict). The film’s most troublesome turbulence is the disposable character of Washington’s love interest, Nicole Maggen (Kelly Reilly) — a drug addict who forms a bond with Whip via their substance abuse issues. The performance from Reilly was as good as it could be. Nonetheless, her character was one-dimensional and only served a purpose for the main character to have a love interest. Thankfully, other characters added to Whip’s appeal — John Goodman as a hippie drug dealer, a heartfelt performance from Tamara Tunie (even though she only had a handful of lines) as a surviving flight attendant and the always dynamic Melissa Leo as a committee chairwoman who is out to take down Whip.
But Flight is all about Denzel. The Mount Vernon native can still make the ladies gasp and swoon, even as Whip — overweight, sloppy, crass and mean. Yet Mr. Washington still manages to be likable with an unlikable character. Denzel possesses old school Hollywood charm, no matter how destructive his character’s are, you can’t help but like the man.
There aren’t many duds on Mr. Washington’s impressive resume and Denzel as Whip Whitaker is another powerful character he can put in his catalogue of flawed heroes. Whip snorts cocaine and downs vodka for breakfast, but when it comes to saving the day, he is Captain America — literally. The emotional tug and pull of the film ask the question: Do his flaws negate his miracle?
Flight is in theaters today.