LAKE OCONEE —
Rated R (for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence).
Flight is not “entertainment.” It is more of a “taunt” on film; an exercise in stretching our judging and forgiving instincts. It is about character or the lack of it, self-preservation or self-destruction, and the projection of our false but preferred public image or a wise surrender to seek redemption from our true nature.
Flight opens in a motel room; not seedy, but the scene exhibits heavy smoking, drinking, and sexual activity the night before. A woman, Katarina (Nadine Velazquez) is as naked as naked can be and as flawless as make-up, cosmetology treatments, and plastic surgery can achieve floats about getting dressed…ever so slowly. Meanwhile, in the bed, is bloated Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a pilot who clearly is in no shape to fly. But fortified by a full pull from a vodka bottle and a line of cocaine, he heads for the airport to fly right into a storm literally and figuratively.
Any other pilot would have crashed along with all passengers and crew, but not this cowboy. By flying “inverted” he is able to stabilize the plane and crash lands the plane saving all but six on board. This scene is just about as white-knuckle as it can get. And the audience’s gasps and groans nearly match the sounds of the actors playing the passengers.
Anyway, Whip should be a hero, right? No, it doesn’t work out that way since investigators discover he had a .27 blood alcohol level not to mention that white stuff ingested via his nasal passages.
There is a parallel story going on while the plot does its roller coaster ride in the sky. A drug addict named Nicole (Kelly Reilly), has hit rock bottom. Whip and Nicole cross paths. Whip---in a moment of decency---saves Nicole but then Nicole tries to return the favor---only to have Whip go deeper down the dark and sordid well of alcoholism and drugging. She cleans up and goes to AA; he rejects her overtures to save himself.