On the surface, Flight may just seem like a film about a flight captain landing the plane after a malfunction occurs. However, the captain, Whip Whittaker (played by Denzel Washington) had been drinking the night previous, but also on the morning of the flight. This ensues a legal battle about whether Whip will have the blame pinned on him. This is just on the surface, however, Robert Zemeckis delves deeper into the story of Whip Whittaker and his relationships with friends and family.
We first meet Whip in a hotel room with Katrina, an air hostess on the flight Whip is scheduled to be flying, with beer bottles and drugs scattered around the room. After being woken up and having a heated conversation with his ex-wife, he does a line of cocaine and necks the rest of his bottle of beer. He leaves the hotel room as normal and boards the plane as normal too.
After a patch of bad turbulence shortly after take-off, Whip talks to the passengers on board via the hostesses phone, all the while pouring vodka into some orange juice. Due to Whip sleeping in his chair, his co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) is called upon to land the plane. But this is when it all goes pear-shaped as the plane starts to nose dive and lose altitude at an alarming rate. Whip jolted awake, is forced to land the plane, but by inverting it to try and land it in an open field. He does this and manages to save 96 of the 102 people on-board the flight.
“No one could have landed that plane like I did. No one.”
Denzel’s acting ability is called upon more so over the course of the rest of the film as the film is heavily focused on Whip’s relationships with his friends, family and co-workers. Whip wakes up in the hospital to the face of Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) who explains the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) are holding an investigation about the plane crash and have some questions for him. During his stay at the hospital, Whip meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly), who is in there for overdosing on drugs (which we saw her being carried out of his apartment when the plane was inverted).
When Whip is released from hospital, he attends a meeting with Charlie and Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) who is his lawyer that has been supplied to him for the enquiry. He informs that if the NTSB can pin the crash on Whip’s alcohol levels in his blood, he faces prison for counts of manslaughter. This realisation causes Whip to start drinking, after going through an effort to disband all the drink in his home.
Whip goes to visit Nicole at her house, to find her being harassed by her landlord for money she owes him. Whip defends her and invites her to stay at his farmhouse, where he is staying due to the media outside his condo. A relationship develops between both of them, which becomes intimate, however, they both shows two sides of an addiction. Whip is showing the regressive side, that can’t fight it regardless of the advice from Hugh and Charlie to stay sober, whereas Nicole is showing progress.
This is further told when they both attend an AA meeting, where he leaves after the speaker’s story hits home about lying to everyone he knew. Drunk, Whip drives home to his farmhouse to find the media swarming, he decides to drives to his families house. The treatment Whip receives from his wife and son show what the addiction has done to his relationships with his family, and Nicole who decides to leave Whip until he kicks his addiction.
Whip, with nowhere to go turns up at Charlie’s house begging him to stay until the hearing. Charlie states he can, but is not allowed a drink whilst he is staying there, to which he abides by, as when he sees Hugh he accounts for 9 days without a drink. Whip, checks the mini-bar to find only soft drinks inside, showing that Charlie and Hugh have thought ahead.
Now I won’t spoil the ending, but Whip attends the hearing to which decides his fate as an airline pilot. Zemeckis, I thought, did an excellent job with the ending, as it ties in with the underlying battle that Whip has had with his alcohol addiction.
The ending is hard-hitting, although it could’ve been expected, the message is still there regardless. It’s ultimately whether Whip can continue to lie to everyone he knows and get away with it, or confess to the truth and face jail-time for being under the influence. This is what is shown throughout the film, as there are the two different addicts in the film, the pro-active, in Nicole, and the regressive in Whip, who keeps fighting but inevitably losing.