‘Flight’ Crashes

Denzel Washington’s performance not withstanding, film drags

By Lori Hoffman
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 4 | Posted Nov. 7, 2012

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Denzel Washington in 'Flight.'

Expectations can sometimes 
change one’s perception. Considering the praise heaped on Flight, the film starring Denzel Washington and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Back to the Future), my reaction, a negative one, was unexpected. As much as one tries to go into a film neutral, the current way of the world with the Internet makes the “Switzerland” approach nearly impossible.

I wanted Flight to soar and instead it crashed after the tremendous opening section of the film that showed the events leading up to the crash of a commercial airline.

That plane that crashes is piloted by Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), an unrepentant alcoholic, who prepares for work after a night of binge drinking with his flight attendant lover Trina (Nadine Velazquez) by snorting coke.

He has been in this cycle of behavior for perhaps years and his success at pulling it off has taken his arrogance to another level. His tremendous skill as a pilot (some of his cocky attitude is justified) prevents the mechanical failure he encounters shortly after takeoff from killing everyone on board. But there is loss of life and serious injuries (his deeply religious co-pilot will likely never walk again).

Flight, after the amazing set-up, turns out to be a film about alcoholism and maybe redemption, ala a couple of classic films about drunks, The Lost Weekend and Leaving Las Vegas.

Honestly, that was not the film I was expecting and frankly, just like the ex-girlfriend in that ubiquitous Visa commercial, I raged at my expectations by screaming internally that this movie is boring, boring, boring.

After scene after scene of watching Whip be a total jerk, trying to lie his way out of trouble and treating the people trying to help him with contempt, I was wondering what ending could justify this bombardment of indefensible behavior. When he tries to coax a friend and colleague (Tamara Tunie of Law & Order: SVU fame) to lie about what she knew and what she saw — at the funeral of his girlfriend no less — his self-preservation mode is exposed as totally vile.

He constantly put numerous lives in danger and yet he doesn’t get it and you just know that the film is going to finally show us that he does “get it,” which will make the movie that came before this last-minute attack of conscience a waste of time.

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1. Anonymous said... on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:57PM

“Sorry you feel that way Lori but the main character has to have an arc. Whip has an arc that could have easily been avoided. The entire movie he is on the run from the truth about his problem and the NTSB hearing is a great climactic moment in the film completing the arc. Maybe you have never known an alcoholic first or second hand...they are destructive to themselves and everyone around them. They are selfish, manipulative and generally untrustworthy.

The only thing that crashes in this film is the plane, once that happens the movie really takes off.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Nov 11, 2012 at 04:45PM

“The "dramatic turnaround" was actually 16 months in the making -- judging by how long he'd been in prison and the photo of his one-year medallion party. Anyone who has known (or, in my case, been) a high-functioning alcoholic will recognize the surrender and, ultimately, the acceptance of responsibility for the self-centered insecurity that is the hallmark of every drinking alcoholic. This film felt real.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Nov 12, 2012 at 06:20AM

“I did not want to go see a movie about addiction, I wanted to see a movie about the dynamics of PR, the law, and what a hero is in a contemporary situation. Others posting here missed the point. And Paramounts marketing of this film was a disappointment to the actual content of the film as a result.”

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4. Lori Hoffman said... on Nov 13, 2012 at 09:22AM

“Exactly. I thought from the trailer that it would be a story about a good, flawed man having to take on the system (an airline trying to cover its butt), but it was a classic "bait and switch." I knew going into Leaving Las Vegas what it would be about.”


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