“Flight” taps into the mind of William “Whip” Whitaker, a commercial jet pilot who saves almost everyone by expertly landing a plane that was falling apart. He is also an alcoholic and an occasional user of cocaine, which complicates things in the crash’s subsequent investigations.
Denzel Washington was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his role as Whip. I’ve always been a fan of his; he makes uninteresting characters interesting, and carries on his back what would’ve been very mediocre films. For an example of that, look no further than “Safe House,” where he turned a film with a predictable and weak script into a box office smash. I don’t think this was his best performance, and it certainly wasn’t as good as the other best actor nominees, especially Hugh Jackman (“Les Miserables”) and Daniel Day Lewis (“Lincoln”).
I found that the story parallels very closely to the “Five Stages of Loss and Grief.” Although the “5 Stages” refers mostly to mourning or someone diagnosed with terminal illness, we know early on in the film that Whip has dealt with some problems in the period before the film, namely a nasty divorce with his wife. Each of the 5 Stages, ‘Denial & Isolation’, ‘Anger’, ‘Bargaining’, ‘Depression’, and ‘Acceptance’, were displayed by Whip, almost in that order.
“Flight” falls short of being great because it wasn’t able to arouse enough emotions from the audience through Whip. It was especially difficult because Whip was an antihero and while director Zemeckis did create a conflict for the audience to both root for Whip for saving lives and be disgusted as he crumbles under the effects of his alcohol addiction, the intensity was somewhat misplaced.
The supporting cast was effective in making Whip’s story more compelling. The role that stood out to me was Kelly Reilly’s (middle bottom of the picture) magnetic performance as Nicole, a recovering drug addict who becomes Whip’s love interest. I was captivated by the clash between her vulnerability and determination (and also her beauty). Reilly has not been in many Hollywood films, notably appearing as Mary Watson in the new “Sherlock Holmes” films. After this performance, I will definitely look out for her in future films.
“Flight” is a really solid drama that provide flashes of brilliance and some let-downs, I recommend it for Reilly’s performance and fans of Denzel Washington.