In his first live-action feature since 2000’s Cast Away, director Robert Zemeckis has painted a dark portrait of addiction and deep characterization of one that has lost just about everything in his life because of it. In the 138-minute running time, we’re reminded that addiction can cause a life to fade into total despair. In most films that center its focus on addictive characters, there’s always a glimmer of hope that they’ll recover. There’s no such glimmer of hope in Flight. The film showcases addiction as relentless. At times it’s unsettling to witness a character’s self-destruction for a drink and his complete avoidance of identifying himself as an addict. There’s no doubt that this is heavy dramatic material. The screenplay, written by John Gatins, exemplifies how compulsiveness and addictive tendencies has its own set of consequences.
When we’re first introduced to Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), he’s laying on a hotel bed as a naked woman slowly dresses herself. He wakes up and takes a swig out of a beer bottle on the nightstand. To “balance” himself out, he snorts a line of cocaine. This is what Whip’s life consists of. He drinks to the point of blacking out and resorts to snorting cocaine to take the edge off. He’s already lost everything in his life. He has lost his home, he’s divorced, and he has a teenage son who’s presumably already been a direct witness to the horror of his father’s addiction. Miraculously, he hasn’t lost is his career as a passenger jet pilot and his friend (and presumed drug dealer) Harling (John Goodman).
After Whip gets in his mojo, he makes his way to the airport and boards the plane. He secretly pours himself an alcoholic drink to take with him as he goes back into the cockpit to prepare for take off. Whip, the plane’s crewmembers, and all 102 passengers don’t realize that morning as they board that their lives are going to change. Due to a mechanical error, the plane loses momentum and heads toward devastation. To avert the already dangerous situation, an intoxicated Whip uses detailed strategic pilot skills to land the plane as safely as he can. The nearly fatal plane crash made Whip realize that he needs to make a turn around in his life. Although he saved many lives that day, there’s one problem. Blood was drawn from all of the crewmembers after the crash and Whip’s blood alcohol level tested at a .24, which is over twice the legal limit.
Whip faces serious criminal charges if he is found guilty of boarding the plane intoxicated. With the help of an old friend (Bruce Greenwood) and a lawyer (Don Cheadle), they try to get Whip out of being convicted of an accident that was inevitable. As Whip tries to make the necessary changes in his life and avoid the overbearing press, he forms a relationship with a recovering heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) who tries to help Whip accept the fact that he is addicted and should receive proper help. As most addicts eventually do, Whip goes back to the bottle only to cause more friction between those who are trying their best to support him.
Denzel Washington further establishes himself as one of the greatest working actors today. His performance in this film is mesmerizing and may be his best since Training Day. The film was crafted in the sense that it made me care about the character. Because of his addiction, Whip is a flawed character but we want him to make his life better. There’s a fantastic scene near the climax of the film when Whip contemplates to open a bottle of alcohol after being sober for days. I won’t tell you what exactly happens but it’s one of the best moments of the entire film. Speaking of the film’s highlights, the entire plane crash sequence in the first portion of the film is intense. Zemeckis staged the scene in such an impacting way that it was difficult to take your eyes off the screen.
Video (1080p HD Transfer): Paramount’s HD transfer on this disc is astounding. The imagery is rich in clarifying detail. The colors pop on screen.
Audio (5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio): The audio throughout the film is extremely crisp. There are no traces of excessive and distracting noise. Make sure to turn up the volume during the plane crash sequence. At the right volume, you’ll experience the scene as if you’re on the plane yourself.
The special features provided on the Blu-ray of Flight are presented in high definition:
- Origins of Flight
- The Making of Flight
- Anatomy of a Plane Crash
- Q&A Highlights (featuring cast and crew members)
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
The special features on the disc aren’t very impressive. I would’ve expected at least an audio commentary track recorded by Zemeckis and Washington but no such luck. In the ‘Origins of Flight’ feature Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Gatins discusses his inspiration for the film and how the talent came on board. The ‘Making of Flight’ feature unfortunately runs way too short at only a little over 11 minutes. It would’ve been interesting to see a more comprehensive look at the production aspect of the film.
Flight is by far Robert Zemeckis’ darkest film. This shows that the director is now entering into a new phase in his directorial style. I’m glad that has moved away from performance capture animation films for now. Before Flight was released, I was becoming way impatient waiting for his next live action feature. Zemeckis is a talented filmmaker who brings John Gatins’ screenplay to life on the screen. The story is a very riveting character study that portrays addiction with an unsettling amount of truth. Due to a solid screenplay and direction, the film was made with the tendency to showcase addiction in all of its ugliness and its ability to destroy the lives of not only the addicted but also the lives of those who were close to them.
Movie – 9/10
Picture – 9.5/10
Audio – 9/10
Special Features – 6/10
Click here to purchase Flight on Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviolet Digital Copy
The Blu-ray was released on February 5th, 2013.