Flight by Robert Zemeckis


Drain the veins in my head

With his latest offering Flight, director Robert Zemeckis brings to life a script written by John Gatins of Real Steel fame.   It’s 2/3 awesome, 1/3 horrible, with the end being flat out insulting to every single viewer who sat through over two hours of tight character development, only to watch it all fall apart for no sensible reason in the last act.

Denzel Washington plays the part of alcoholic / drug addicted pilot Whip Whittaker.  He drinks heavily the night before, the morning of, and during a routine SouthJet flight from Florida to Georgia.  When the plane first lifts off from the runaway it encounters some serious turbulence as a result of bad weather.  With the skill of a seasoned, veteran pilot, Whittaker brilliantly bursts through the pocket of troublesome air and all appears to be well.  He decides to hand over control to the co-pilot.  He then addresses the passengers while helping himself to a bottle of orange juice and three small containers of vodka.  After he’s had his fill, he dons a beauty mask and takes a snooze behind the controls.

He awakens to a flight in peril.  The plane is losing altitude at a steady clip.  He does everything in his power to right the situation, but in the end the plane crash lands, killing 6 (4 passengers, 2 flight attendants) of the 102 souls that were aboard.  The cause of the crash was mechanical in nature and not due to his inebriated state.  Still, crash investigators perform a routine toxicology screen, and well, you know what that ends up revealing.

Let’s talk spoilers for a moment.  If you haven’t seen the movie you might want to stop reading now.  If you don’t care, then by all means, continue on.

For the bulk of the picture Whitaker is a confessed alcoholic who will do anything, ANYTHING, to avoid owning up to the fact that he has a problem, including visiting every person connected to the flight and asking them to lie so that he won’t have to serve time in jail.  Even though the plane didn’t crash due to his negligence, it’s still reckless endangerment on his part.  Damaged or in pristine condition, you can’t pilot an airplane when you’re blitzed out of your mind.  Well, technically you can, but you shouldn’t, and if you do and you get caught, expect large quantities of jail time to come your way.

Enter Don Cheadle who plays the part of Hugh Lang, the pilots union’s lawyer assigned to the case.  He gets the toxicology report thrown out due to several technicalities.  All Whitaker has to do is not drink until he’s questioned by the investigating body at the official hearing about the crash and he’s golden.  What does he do?  Basically he self-destructs.

He hooks up with a heroin addict he met while recovering from minor injuries in the hospital after the crash and has her move in with him.  She ends up being surprisingly more together than he is though, and she leaves him.  He drinks, and drinks, and drinks, and when he’s not drinking he’s out persuading co-workers to say that everything about the flight that morning seemed perfectly a-ok.

He gets wasted the night before the hearing and then has to do some coke as a pick me up before going to testify.  What happens when he speaks?

Do they nail him to the wall?  Confront his with the facts surrounding his condition?  No, they praise him as a hero.

Does he continue his lies and get away with it scott free?  No.  Suddenly, for no reason at all, he has a change of heart and confesses to the whole thing.  He’s an alcoholic, he was drunk the night before the flight, he was drunk during the flight, he’s drunk right now.  What the junk?!?!

For two hours the audience has been subjected to the life of an individual who is a pathological liar.  He’s a man who will do anything to save his own skin.  Then all of a sudden, when only one question stands between him and his freedom, and it’s not even a hard factual question, he’s asked for his OPINION on something, he sudden spills his guts?  I don’t think so.  The man doesn’t even show a hint of remorse or regret up to that point.  He simply does not give a shit about his drinking.  Suddenly he wants to get clean?

And so Whitaker confesses and feels such relief.  He goes to jail, but his heroin addict girlfriend writes to him, and he finally gets to form a good relationship with his estranged son.  He even teaches his fellow inmates a thing or two about doing the right thing.  WHATEVER.  C’mon Hollywood, did you really think we wanted to see him turn his life around? How about a dose of reality for a change instead of the same old crap?

The first 2/3 of Flight is pretty well done.  John Goodman (Argo, ParaNorman) is great as Whitaker’s drug dealer.  The last third is pure fantasy happy ever after crap.

If it so pleases the Academy, I’d like to ask that John Gatins NOT win the award for Writing-Original Screenplay.  Our suggestion?  Perhaps you could sentence him to class in the realities of addiction instead.  Oh and as a bonus could you please burn whatever he’s written thus far for the highly unnecessary Real Steel 2???  Thanks.

Flight ★★★☆☆
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Nominated For:
Actor in a Leading Role (Denzel Washington)
Writing-Original Screenplay (Written by John Gatins)

United States
138 Minutes


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About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.