It’s shocking that most people don’t know that alcohol is a drug. Most people I know use it wisely, without it controlling them. The lure of the bottle has captured many people into a lifelong fuzzy vision. Their lives are at a breaking point and they escape by taking the taste of beer or possibly gin. After a couple of drinks that becomes too many, the fantasy of their illusioned happiness is more satisfying then the real world. All they had to do was to sacrifice their self-control and intelligence. What becomes more tragic is when the booze starts come from the breath and into the lives that affect them.
A portrait of a true alcoholic is painted in Flight. Robert Zemeckis returns to live action movie making after tapping into the motion-capture technology with movies like The Polar Express and Beowulf. Though it’s been a while since his last live action adventure Cast Away, Zemeckis fits himself comfortably back into his usual zone of natural characters in suspenseful situations. Flight is almost the complete opposite of Cast Away; while the older film had an honest, likable Joe stranded and we hope for his escape, this movie has a very despicable person who while we feel sorry for him, we’re not sure how we want to see him in the end.
The movie opens with airline captain Whip Whitaker (played by Denzel Washington) waking up in a hotel room after a night of sex with a flight attendant, along with booze and cocaine. A quick shot of the white power sends him to his day job as he has to pilot an airliner from Orlando, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. A mechanical malfunction sends the plane into a nosedive, in a very suspenseful ride that’s almost as scary as the one in Cast Away. By rolling the plane upside down, he pulls it out and crashes it into an open field. Once he hits the ground, his world goes black.
He wakes up in a hospital where he learns that he saved almost everyone on board. He’s hailed as a hero, but he want’s to avoid the attention. After recovering, he retreats to his fathers farm, where he takes in a women he met at the hospital, Nicole (Played by Kelly Reilly). Things turn bad for him as a lawyer from the pilots union, Hugh Lang (played by Don Cheadle) reveals that the medical reports show that Whip had alcohol in his blood. Caught with the proof of alcohol, Whip struggles to take in the investigation and a possible jail sentence, and reacts by diving deeper into the beer bottles.
Denzel Washington has another amazing performance as a man who is already drowning under the bottle and has to contemplate what makes him who he is. The examination in his lifestyle and separated family is fascinating, though it’s not always pleasant. For those that Flight is a special effects extravaganza, you’ll be disappointed. This is a character study and a damn good one.
I’ll give this four and a half airplane cloud trails out of five. Flight never becomes over bearing in it’s story of alcoholism. It just shows you a sad man whose life could be completely ruined. All he has to do is pour everything down the drain.