The hook to getting you in to see Flight is that – on the surface at least – it’s about a pilot who manages to save a plane from crashing with some fantastic flying skill, despite being dangerously drunk at the time.
But what it’s really about is an alcoholic who struggles to come to terms with his problems.
Starring Denzel Washington as the booze guzzling, coke snorting pilot, William “Whip” Whittaker, Flight is a good film, but once again it suffers from the same problem as every single film I’ve seen at the cinema this year; it would have been better if it was slightly shorter.
It would be fair to say that this is another “Game of Two Halves” style film; the first half being about plane crash itself and the second focusing on the pilot himself.
And there is a place for both.
For anyone who doesn’t like flying, the plane’s troubles and ultimate crash landing are worryingly well executed, with it flying upside down for a spell in a successful bid to prevent crashing to Earth at a fatal speed.
The whole sequence is high on drama and superb in terms of acting and special effects.
But the positive aspects of Flight don’t begin and end with that. Washington is very good as Whittaker, and the aftermath of the incident is handled in an engrossing way.
For me at least, it was interesting to see how his own brilliant piloting plays second fiddle to a blame game over who was ultimately responsible.
And I did enjoy Whittaker’s breakdown, as he gradually becomes consumed by his problems, with it all coming to a head the morning of the official enquiry.
Where the film could have lost a little bit of time was on the setup of the character of Nicole. Ultimately she became an incidental character with about 50 minutes left, so wasting a good 15 minutes of scenes introducing her seemed a bit needless.
Three Cheers For Cocaine, Kids! (Spoilers)
What I didn’t like though – if I was to be perhaps a little bit over-critical – was his acceptance of his alcohol problems at the hearing. To me, that’s poor storytelling because it’s too easy and obvious.
Throughout the whole film, he’s brushed over his problems like any other alcoholic that you’ve ever known, lying to everyone around him and to himself as he fails to come to terms with his issues.
For him to finally admit to them right at the end, just at the point where he could have got off scot-free, was a bit too mushy and Hollywood for my liking.
It makes for a feel good-ending, but not necessarily a realistic one.
Of course, had he not come to terms with his problems, the film would have finished on a sour note, as if it was validating alcoholism, but I’m sure there are ways of overcoming it.
Actually though – and bear in mind I’m the sort of person who hates Ferris Bueler’s Day Off because it encourages and indeed glamorises truancy – one thing this film does do is promote cocaine as a wonderful way to recover from a hangover in short order.
Now I don’t drink, and I certainly don’t take drugs, so it’s neither here nor there to me, but I did feel that some people might come away from it thinking “You know what I need? Some cocaine!!”. Sure, Whittaker acknowledged that he had a problem, but snorting some coke meant he could still fly a plane better than most other sober pilots and attend a hearing an hour after being found on his hotel bathroom floor, pissed as a fart and barely conscious.
Maybe that’s what coke does, I wouldn’t know, but it seemed to be promoted as a miracle cure here, sold by John Goodman in a Hawaiian shirt. And it shouldn’t be.
Drugs are bad kids, okay?
Should You Go To See Flight?
My issues with the ending and the glorification of cocaine aside, Flight was a pretty decent film, all things considered.
It’s the sort of film where I’d watch the first 45 minutes or so again of it was on TV, just to see the brilliantly done plane crash, but beyond that, I don’t think I’d bother.
But I enjoyed it as I watched it, and though it would have been better running under two hours, it didn’t drag all that much.
So it’s solid, but unspectacular.
And Denzel Washington is good in it.