***Warning: If you have a deep-seated fear of flying like I do don’t watch this movie. Or if you really want to watch this movie, from the time the plane is cleared for take-off go into another room, put on noise canceling headphones, and wait until someone you love and trust gives you the all-clear.
I’m already freaking out because the next time I travel by air my pilot may not know how to fly a plane upside down.
This movie is not what you think. It’s absolutely the right stuff and absolutely annoying as hell, both at the same time.
I’ll try to keep the Spoilers to a minimum but stop right now if you don’t want to read any Spoilers.
The right stuff: Denzel Washington and his amazing incredible uncanny ability to possess a character, Whip Whitaker, to inhabit the body and soul of a washed-up, degenerate, substance abusing loser; a miserable excuse for a man/boy-flying-wonder who manages to pull off a miracle with panache.
(Soul is the operative word here – more later.)
Not so right: No obvious or less than obvious reason for Whip Whitaker to be an asshole, his divorce notwithstanding – It is made clear to the viewer that his assholiness predated the divorce.
The right stuff: Secondary players.
Not so right: Secondary players. It wasn’t the acting. The acting was fine. It was the archetypes that bugged me–
1. If all drug dealers spouted corn pone quips and dealt down-home wisdom as readily as John Goodman’s over the top, Harling Mays, we’d all be using cocaine whether we were piloting a commercial airplane or cooking up a tasty pot roast. He makes it look that good.
2. The holy roller co-pilot and his Stepford Wife. Good for siccing on zombies in the post-apocalyptic world because God save us all from the wrath of the righteous, but otherwise they were useless and, frankly, offensive characters.
3. Slimy lawyer. Speaking as the daughter of a lawyer I have to ask– Must all cinematic lawyers (except in some John Grisham movies) be portrayed as slime balls?
4. The beautiful down on her luck junkie/heroine addict who, unfortunately, added nothing to the story. Her inclusion into the Whip Whitaker saga was a bit like watching parallel play in childhood. Two side by side stories, neither contributing much to the other. She was a symbol. She never assumed any more flesh and blood than her one-dimensional photo.
The right stuff: A suspension of disbelief. I’m going to give the director and the actors mega-props for the outrageous flight scenes.
Not so right: A suspension of disbelief.
1. Pilots, and all others associated with safety in the airline industry, are drug tested– regularly and randomly. A man who drinks heavily and uses drugs, and has done so every single day – before, during and after flights – over a twenty year period – would have been caught at some point in time. Especially because Whip’s drinking and drug use were not secret. The flight crew and other pilots were aware of his issues.
2. Even the most seasoned alcoholic cannot drink as much as Whip Whitaker does in a single sitting without:
a. Passing out behind the wheel of a car, and elsewhere.
b. Suffering recurring bouts of alcohol poisoning requiring emergency intervention which if left untreated would lead to…
c. Death from alcohol poisoning.
It’s simply not possible to suspend disbelief on this one. Trust me.
Now we come to the part about redemption. Because at its heart, that’s what this movie is all about.
Who will save Whip’s soul?
When push comes to shove, will Whip save his soul or will he save his own ass?
The question is answered by borrowing from such disparate places as a film like Brendan Fraser’s Bedazzled, a play like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and even the television series Battlestar Galactica.
I’m referring to Willie Loman’s disintegration and descent into the depths of hell. Elliot Richard’s meeting with God in his jail cell. Gaius Baltar, the ultimate trickster figure, and his ever faithful sidekick, Caprica Six, with her oft-repeated whisper– “You are made in God’s image…”
These sources provide the answers Whip seeks in Flight.
Unnecessary: Gratuitous full frontal nudity in the opening scene. As hubs said in the beginning, “Oh my, that’s the earliest nipple shown in any movie… ever.” While in the end he said, “That nude scene contributed nothing to the story. This would have been a PG 13 rated film without it.”
But the nude scene is probably why some people will now hurry to watch it.
Interesting mini factoid: Tamara Tunie (flight attendant Margaret Thomason) got her start on As the World Turns. She sure landed a plum role. She’s great in Flight.