‘Flight’ reaches new heights

Director Robert Zemeckis’ name has been associated with family friendly adventures, stop-motion animated films and the story of a man named Gump. His films have heart and encounter conflict, but it is conquerable. But Zemeckis’ latest film has so much conflict that it doesn’t seem entirely resolved by the end of the film.

When sitting down to see “Flight,” starring Denzel Washington as pilot Whip Whitacre, I expected a thrilling tale of a hero pilot based on the trailers. Buyers beware, because this film is so much more than heroic story. In reality, it’s not heroic at all; it’s downright despicable at times. “Flight” breaks the boundaries of what film can be and makes audiences distrust their own moral conscience.

The film begins with a tone altogether different than Zemeckis’ other films. Washington wakes up from a night of frivolity with a nude woman and a room littered with beer bottles. Surprisingly this is what pulled me in, because I knew from that moment that this film was something entirely different. Washington does play a hero pilot, but one who suffers from severe alcoholism. After his character safely lands a plane that is sent plummeting back to earth after a part malfunctions, he is informed that those investigating the crash found alcohol in his system.

At this moment audiences might think Whitacre is going behind bars for a long time. Instead what unfolds is a powerful drama about the tortures of substance abuse and temptation. Depending on your state of mind, this film will either pull hard at your heart strings or bore you to death. This is a film for individuals who have met the eyes of temptation or witnessed someone struggle. If you don’t want to relive potentially painful memories, then I would not suggest seeing this film.

Washington portrays a tortured soul better than any actor in recent memory. In one particular scene Whitacre drives to his old home in hopes of speaking with his ex-wife and son, but they will have nothing to do with him. The son threatens his father and tells him to leave immediately, and Whitacre grabs his son with a hug.

This moment brought on the water works for me, because there is so much pain in the scene acted brilliantly by Washington and company. There are plenty of scenes working together like this in Zemeckis’ film. For those who have not met this struggle in life, some scenes may come off as overdramatic, but in reality they portray the perfect amount of human drama. Zemeckis and screenwriter Jon Gatins have done their research and present the ugly side of addiction in its most real form.

This film could have stood alone playing the addiction as the main plot, but what the director and screenwriter do is much more powerful and vile. They force the audience to examine their moral conscience when Whitacre’s blood report is thrown out of a case against him due to faulty testing. Together with his lawyer, played connivingly yet charmingly by Don Cheadle, and his old friend, who works for the pilot’s union and is played sternly by Bruce Greenwood, Whitacre will need to either lie in a hearing or face the realities of his choices.

Patrick White

Movie fan Patrick White doesn't spare anyone's feelings when deciding if the latest Hollywood offering is trash or treasure. Catch his reviews on the latest theater and DVD releases in Saturday's paper.

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