Movie Review: Flight

Flight looked like one of those movies that I would really get a kick out of.  I like stories of a little guy going up against a flawed system accusing him of failure despite a heroic act, and eventually getting his earned praise by the end.  The main character had some drinks the night before he went to work as a pilot?  So what!  I’m sure he had some coffee and he’ll be tip-top to FLY A PLANE UPSIDE DOWN AND SAVE 100 LIVES.  Certainly he will prove to the world that he is indeed a hero?  Right?

And that’s where the movie kind of goes completely downhill for me.  Not in the fact that Whip does or does not get justice in the end for his brilliant flight maneuvers (I won’t ruin it for you).  But in the fact that Whip isn’t a hero at all.  Sure, he did a heroic act; but he is easily the worst, most vile character in the entire film.  After about the one hour mark (in this 2 and 1/2 hour long movie), I started to lose all good will toward the guy we are supposed to be caring about.

Basically the film plot is as follows…  Whip is a veteran pilot of 25-30 years, and it’s just another normal day of flying a commercial airplane.  But he’s a drunk and a drug addict, and the morning of the flight he’s already chugging vodka and snorting lines of coke.  Snorting lines of coke!  Everything on the flight is going just fine, when out of nowhere, a plane malfunction causes them to nosedive.  Through some brilliant instinct, Whip manages to crash the plane relatively safely and most of the people on the plane survive.  When he wakes up in the hospital a few days later, he is treated as a hero.  Though, soon enough, he discovers a blood sample was taken from him after the crash, revealing that he had booze and cocaine in his system.  Then the rest of the movie is spent leading up to his big hearing, where he needs to explain that it was a plane malfunction that caused the accident, not his drunk driving.


This would be a good time in his life to completely stop drinking, maybe even do some reflection?  But instead he ends up getting more drunk than he’s ever been in his life, and things continue to spiral downhill.  This film isn’t about the miraculous redemption of a hero wrongly accused.  It’s about how far a guy with an addiction will go to lie and manipulate his way out of trouble.

And at a certain point, you just stop feeling bad for the guy, and instead start cursing him for being such a destructive prick.  I think if the movie had him clean himself up for a while, then relapse at the very end, it would have been more impactful.  Instead, the guy is getting loaded the entire movie, even when everyone is telling him not to or he’ll go to prison, and he still can’t contain himself.  I know it’s an addiction or a disease or whatnot, but c’mon man, get yourself together!  You’re in the national spotlight!  His drinking and the actions it resulted in started to be less dramatic as time went on.  And much more repetitive and tiresome.

What a knob.

The movie felt like it was written by Alcoholics Anonymous.  Like it was like a big advertisement that the program works, hidden behind the much more interesting story of a plane crash.  Frankly, I kinda just wanted to watch a plane crash movie, not a movie about a guy overcoming his inner demons.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that kind of movie, but this movie tackled it in a rather obvious way.  And it just drags so much in the middle.  I think the first 25 minutes were awesome, and the final conflict in the last 25 minutes were good; but everything in between could have been drastically reduced.  It wasn’t very focused.  It’s also very heavy on the religious aspects of things.  Much like the twelve steps from AA, the movie has a lot of forced God appraisal in it.  I understand this can help alcoholics overcome their addictions, but was it supposed to help me get through this super long movie, too?  Does getting through Flight require twelve steps?

1.  We admit that we are powerless over Hollywood films.

2.  We came to believe that Robert Zemeckis could return to live action movies and restore film to sanity.

3.  We made our decision to turn our 2 and 1/2 hours over to Zemeckis, as we once understood him.  Hey, remember Back to the Future?

4.  Made an inventory of cliches that you see in the film.   Try and forget about them, it will make the movie better if you do.  Wait, for real?  Did he just throw an empty booze bottle against the wall…?  (nervously tugs on neck of shirt)

5.  Admitted to God, that hey, even once-great movie directors can have a wrong doing.  Just roll with it.  Don’t overthink it, bro.

6.  Were eagerly anticipating God deliver us some worthwhile character development.

7.  Humbly ask God to remove this film’s shortcomings.  …Anytime now, God…

8.  Made a list of all the people in this movie, and the better roles they had in other movies.  Just to make amends that they chose to be in this one.

9.  Made direct amends to Denzel Washington, because he’s an A-list actor.  They get to do whatever they want.

10.  Continue to make an inventory of all the flaws throughout the film, promptly disregard them for sake of the film.

11.  Sought prayer and meditation that we could get through this incredibly long movie without having to get up to pee.  Why is it so long?  Give me strength, God!

12.  Have a spiritual awakening that this movie is actually nothing all that special, and just move on with your life.  But thanks for the $14, seriously.

Is he looking at an airplane… Or GOD…?!

We get introduced to a heroin junkie love interest that they heavily develop early on, and that storyline essentially goes nowhere midway through the movie.  I suppose to show the destructive nature his boozing has on his relationships, even seemingly promising ones?  I could have assumed that was the case anyway by the relationship (or non-relationship) he has with his ex-wife and son.  And don’t even get me started on that scene where he visits them.  That was like a Lifetime made-for-TV movie.  “Get outta here, Dad!  You were never here for me, Dad!”  For the handful of good things that Flight had going for it, Robert Zemeckis did a great job of tarnishing all of it one bad scene after another.

There were a few highlights, though.  The plane crash scene was awesome.  Very well crafted, filmed, and edited.  It had me very nervous, as it was incredibly tense.  And I hate flying in airplanes in real life, so that helped pile it on for me.  If this is ever on TV in a few years, check out the first chunk of the movie, it might actually be worth it.  The cast was merely serviceable.  Denzel Washington was OK, I guess.  I really can’t say he was any better in this than he was in Remember the Titans or American Gangster or Philadelphia.  He’s always kind of the same for me.  He’s a guy who has range, but he does the same range in everything he does, almost systematically at this point.  John Goodman, however, is funny as his drug dealer / friend.  But he’s in the movie for less than 10 minutes total.  Everyone else, including the normally awesome Don Cheadle, do absolutely nothing memorable or worth noting.

John Goodman should be in every movie.

The soundtrack was almost exclusively classic rock songs, yet the film takes place in modern day.  So while I really liked the songs they picked for the movie (because they’re great songs), perhaps they were somewhat nonsensical to hammer in there as if they actually related to the film’s story in some way.  Or did they?  I remember hearing Sympathy for the Devil…  they aren’t being THAT obvious, are they…?!

I wouldn’t recommend Flight to most people.  It’s just not that good.  It’s a character study about a character I never felt compassion for.  What was even learned about the guy, really?  He has a failed marriage, a son he never talks to, and this led to an addiction to alcohol?  He never grows.  He never changes, until the very end of the movie, when the big reveal is that he recognizes he’s been lying to himself the whole time.  The first step of AA is to recognize that you are powerless over alcohol.  This whole movie is just about a guy making it to the first step.  I have no doubt this is a character study, but it’s a crappy character study about a guy who keeps going in circles.  Why bother watching a guy act the same way for 130 minutes, only to finally see something redeeming in the last 10 minutes, then have the movie end?  He basically stays at the same developmental spot for the entire second act, and most of the third act.  And the movie just LINGERS.

“Mr. Washington, is this movie almost over?”

I guess the main purpose of Flight is to ask the question “would you consider an awful person to be a hero if he did one heroic act?”.  To me, the answer is no.  At least in this case.  The great conflict of the film isn’t the airplane crash, that happens in the first act.  The actual conflict is whether or not Whip should go to prison for his reckless actions.  And this isn’t even really a conflict worth debating.  The guy did cocaine right before he flew an airplane with 100 other people on board.  He deserves to go to prison.  I guess if you want to see an Academy Award winning actor playing an unappreciative, drunken clod; then check this movie out.  I guess I’d say it’s maybe worth a rent.  But I’m warning you, it’s only like 45 minutes of genuinely good stuff hidden in a bloated 140 minute package.

Also, what a lazy, generic name for a movie.

5.5 out of 10

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