Flight is a change of pace for director, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away). After a decade of doing mo-cap animated films, Zemeckis returns to live action with a film that is decidedly darker than any other film he's ever made.
Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, portrayed by Denzel Washington. Whip is a drug addict, an alcoholic, and a commercial airline pilot. On the morning that his airplane experiences technical difficulties and starts falling out of the sky, Whip was drunk and high. While he made an emergency landing in a Georgia field, his condition leads to a criminal investigation as to why the aircraft really fell.
The crash sequence is as harrowing as any I've ever seen, and is a marvel of Zemeckis's directing and ability to get immaculate effects work out of the effects crew, however the rest of the film is about Whip and his addictions. Whip cannot stop drinking, lying, or being a man so unfitting of the word hero. He refuses to go to AA meetings, he cannot resist a drink when it's sitting there right in front of him, and the film goes to many places that are surprising and uncomfortable for the viewer. We witness Whip, fall down drunk, high as a kite, and lying with a silver tongue, ignoring his son and ex-wife for most of the film, and losing the few good relationships he still has left. Washington delivers a performance of intense depth, he plays the role with charm, but the kind of charm one has when they're trying to get everything to go their way. Though where his performance really stands out, is in the way that Washington's Whip refuses to admit that he has a problem, and he gives a good case for award's attention at the end when he finally lays down his alcohol addiction for the whole world to see.
Smartly, Flight never tries to answer the spiritual questions it raises, some might find a spiritual movie underneath all of this, about why things happen, and that's one of the best things that Zemeckis and writer John Gatins did, they don't try to push anything on the viewer, but let them make up their own mind. To me, the movie is about discovering one's faith, while it's also a movie about a man on a downward spiral, crashing both figuratively and literally in this film. The whole piece works thematically, and the acting performances are strong, in particular Don Cheadle, as the most believable lawyer I've seen on film in a while. While Flight loses some of its credibility when Whip's lawyer pays for him to get high on cocaine when he's spending his whole time the rest of the film trying to get Whip's toxicology report to go away, as a whole, Flight is a hard-hitting drama that is unlike anything else that Zemeckis has ever done. For a filmmaker who one thinks they've already seen all the tricks he has left in his bag, this is a refreshing experience to see him growing and delivering adult fare unlike anything else he's ever done before, but be warned, this is neither a feel good movie, nor a film for the faint hearted, as there is nudity, drugs, alcohol, and many different ways to use the f-word.
I give Flight an A-!