In “Flight,” Denzel Washington unapologetically drinks, smokes marijuana, snorts cocaine, lies, convinces others to lie on his behalf and pretty much acts like an awful human being for the entire film. The only thing he does do right is crash an airplane.
And oh, what a crash it is.
In one of the most suspenseful sequences of the year, Whip (Washington), drunk and high, is the only person that keeps his cool as the plane he’s piloting goes into a sharp nosedive in the middle of a storm. The co-pilot panics and the passengers pray, but Whip is cool as a cucumber. It may even be the coolest Washington has ever been. As the trailer reveals, he inverts the plane to halt the dive, saving the lives of most everyone on the flight. Instead of being hailed a hero though, a toxicology report reveals Whip’s addiction, resulting in a possible jail sentence.
Director Robert Zemeckis, making his first live action film since the Tom Hanks mega hit “Cast Away,” still has a flair for the cinematic, so much so that he even makes a conversation between three people in a stairwell visually stimulating. Sadly, he still can’t keep things from becoming redundant and sometimes corny.
At 138 minutes, “Flight” occupies the majority of its run time with Whip drinking, drinking some more, then drinking even more for good measure. Characters float in and out, like John Goodman’s funny, Southern drug dealer, who disappears for what feels like 90 minutes only to turn up at the end in a disgraceful scene that tries to make light of how deep Whip’s addiction truly goes. Don Cheadle occasionally appears as Whip’s lawyer to chastise his drinking, while at the same time trying to get him out of trouble. The rest of the time is spent on Whip’s relationship with a recovering heroin addict, which has no real impact on the main plot.
Everyone agrees that Whip was the only person who could have successfully landed the plane that crashed, but it doesn’t serve as anything more than a magnificent sequence that really seems to have little effect on Whip. He was a drunk before the crash and he’s still a drunk after the crash.
If nothing else, the stunning plane crash makes “Flight” worth seeing. The problem is, it sets the bar so high for the rest of the film you can’t help but feel let down and disappointed. It’s almost like coming down off of an amazing high and crashing, sort of like an addict.