Flight tells the story of “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a drunk and drug-abusing pilot (the cocaine sobers him up after an all-night bender) who becomes a hero after managing to crash-land the plane he was flying after a small (but clearly significant) piece of it sheers off mid-flight. The opening half-an-hour to 45 minutes are great. We get to see Whip in full partying flow and then see how he goes about recovery. The plane-crash is a thrillingly filmed piece of viscera and is a height the rest of the film can never even consider topping (even if aspects aren’t quite as accurate as they might be).
The rest of the film follows Whip as he first comes off the booze and drugs, then goes back on, bouncing between the two states again and again. There are two films that could have been made – a portrayal of a flawed man facing his demons (or not), or the consideration of the moral dilemna at the heart of the film, that a man illegally doing his job under the influence does something no one else could have done in saving 100 people onboard his plane, how should we deal with praising or condemning him? The film takes the former approach, studying the man and his relationship with alcohol and, unfortunately, is the poorer for it. The film is overlong at 2 hrs 18 minutes and wastes time with sub-plots which go nowhere and fail to add depth to the central character.
[Spoiler alert] Even at the end, where Whip has to make a decision about what direction his life will take, the reason he makes his choice is not really explained or justified. It’s a shame because the film had a great deal of promise, but ultimately underwhelms and, in places, bores.
5/10 (4 stars)