February 17, 2013
The trailer pretty much tells us already what "Flight" was all about. An ace pilot saves a crashing plane from a worse fate by a daring yet skillful inversion maneuver. However, as public adulation for his miraculous feat builds up, the pilot had to face investigation for the alcohol and drugs found in his post-flight blood exams. Thus, the question is set up: will he get away with it all or will he own up to his personal demons? That is all that the trailer does not tell us.
I watched "Flight" mainly because of Denzel Washington's Oscar-nominated lead performance as the pilot Capt. Whip Whitaker. He deserves this citation because he was able to convincingly navigate the emotions that are eating up this troubled, tormented and broken man. While we admire him for his piloting skill, we also detest him for his uncontrollable addiction to alcohol, the lies he makes up to cover up for it and the personal relationships he ruined along the way. I do not particularly enjoy watching movies about people who destroy themselves, and this is one of them.
Alcoholism had been a favorite subject for Oscar winners, both for males and females, including Lionel Barrymore ("A Free Soul"), Ray Milland ("The Lost Weekend"), Robert Duvall ("Tender Mercies"), Nicolas Cage ("Leaving Las Vegas"), Vivien Leigh ("A Streetcar Named Desire") and Susan Hayward ("I Want to Live"). Denzel's performance in "Flight" would have been a shoo-in to join that illustrious list of winners in any other year, except that this year he was up against stronger nominees.
I love the multiple meanings of the title "Flight" in the context of the story. The Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay was a nice bonus for this production. I thought the subplot about another drug addict Nicole (sympathetically played by Kelly Reilly) was not really too important in the main story arc, and just prolonged the running time beyond two hours. It was also good to see Robert Zemeckis back in a live action film (after "Beowulf" and "Polar Express"), but his directorial style seems to be stuck in the 1990s because "Flight" did have a sort-of "dated" TV-movie feel to it.