It’s been almost four years since airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger landed his crippled jet safely on the Hudson River. Ever since that day, whenever I fly, I always wonder to myself if the pilot flying the plane I’m on could pull that landing off. Because when you think about it, when you’re 30,000 feet above the ground the ONLY person that can get you back down safely is the pilot. Whip Whitaker (Washington) is a former military pilot who is put into a life or death situation when the plane he’s piloting from Orlando to Atlanta suddenly begins plummeting to the ground. A hard task for anyone, to be sure. Especially when they’re drunk.
A powerful look inside the world of alcoholism, “Flight” uses the events before and after the aforementioned plane mishap to take the viewer on the rollercoaster ride that is Whip Whitaker’s life. Hailed as a hero for landing the plane in a field, Whip is then alarmed to learn that the blood test taken after the crash showed alcohol in his system. And cocaine. Scared straight for a few days Whip refuses to believe he’s an alcoholic. But as those around him try to protect him the demons in the bottle continue to undermine them.
In his first live-action film since “Cast Away” (which also had one hell of an on-screen plane crash), Robert Zemeckis has returned first class story telling. An Oscar winner for “Forrest Gump,” Zemeckis takes the camera into the lives of Whip Whitaker and the people who want to protect them. Chief among them is Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a former drug addict who finds herself in the same hospital as Whip after the crash. The two form a friendship/relationship but Kelly finds herself being drawn into Whip’s downward spiral. Both actors give strong performances, rivaling those of Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in the classic Blake Edwards film “Days of Wine and Roses.” Other notable actors include Greenwood as head of the pilot union and Cheadle as the attorney engaged by the airline to protect Whip.
A film about much more than a plane crash, “Flight” is a sobering look inside a world often ignored in Hollywood.