Excitement levels soar for Robert Zemeckis’s latest moral drama. Jonathan Able prepares for takeoff.
Photo courtesy of SCAD.
Sex, drugs and…a plane crash. Those elements comprise director Robert Zemeckis’s and writer John Gatins’s latest, Flight. Billed as a mystery-drama, I found the film less of an actual who-dunnit than a morality play—a divine battle between good and evil.
Whip Whitaker, portrayed exquisitely by Denzel Washington (Safe House), pilots a failing commercial aircraft to an emergency landing and somehow miraculously saves the majority of the passengers on board.
What the general public doesn’t know, however, is what lies beneath: Whitaker grapples with a serious addiction to a number of vices, including, but not limited to, alcohol, cocaine and an extracurricular workplace relationship involving one of his flight attendants. What’s more, he has just come off a multi-day bender prior to the doomed flight.
The aftermath places Whitaker in the middle of an investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine exactly how the SouthJet airplane went down. Was the crash caused by outdated mechanics aboard the aging aircraft? Did Whitaker’s compromised wherewithal jeopardize the passengers on board? In such a phenomenal landing, akin to Captain Sullenberger’s miracle touchdown on the Hudson River, is it possible that divine intervention played a role?
This last question poised held my interest throughout the film. Religious implications received more than just a tip of the hat in Flight. Case in point, Whitaker lands the plummeting aircraft in a field directly adjacent a church. Much of the film’s dialogue centers on the divine. In a hospital scene directly following the aircraft, Whitaker’s co-pilot preaches that the flight’s incident was “preordained” as his wife semi-silently echoes, “Praise Jesus,” almost as if she were preparing to speak in tongues.
Is Whip Whitaker, then, a quasi-savior figure with an all-too-human drinking habit?
That depends on your interpretation.
What’s not up for interpretation is the stellar cast: Kelly Riley as Nicole, Whitaker’s also-addicted love interest; Don Cheadle as his Chicago-based lawyer; and, the scene-stealing John Goodman (who manages to steal a few more scenes in this season’s Oscar bait, Argo.)
Few films, anymore, stay with you after you’ve thrown your popcorn away. But, if you’re looking for something more substantial than brain candy, well then, come aboard, because Flight is ready for departure.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Open now in theaters nationwide.