Movie Review: FLIGHT (2012) – Flawed Protagonist Concept Taken Too Far

Published by Shah Shahid on

Sometimes directors accumulate such a body of work, that it’s hard not to expect greatness or, at least, an entertaining film from them in the future. My own perceptions of the movie in my most recent Movie Review might have suffered from similar high expectations. But, I’m sad to say, that any lack of expectations would not have made FLIGHT any better a movie. Safe to say this Review will contain many a **SPOILERS**.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Stars

Denzel Washington in Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis 2012 Movie ReviewDirector Robert Zemeckis’ offering of a dramatic thriller about the aftermath of a deadly plane crash and the spotlight it puts on it’s hero pilot played by the, at one time legendary, Denzel Washington, is what FLIGHT is about.

Here’s the problem with FLIGHT, and it’s a very simple one at that. It has nothing to do with the plane, or the investigation into the crash that follows or anything even close to what the title suggests the movie is about. It would be like if CAST AWAY was titled, well… FLIGHT.

Denzel Washington in Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis 2012 Movie Review

“I got this… I just had some Coke!”

The story is about a hotshot cool guy pilot, William “Whip” Whitaker (awesome name by the way) who bangs his flight hostess girlfriend while drunk and stoned, and begins his workday with a line of Coke (not the drink). Oh, and by ‘work day’ I mean piloting a commercial airplane from one city to another with 100+ passengers. That’s probably as good as the movie gets, unfortunately.

After a mechanical failure, and a heroic rescue by Whitaker, that ended up saving most of the lives on the plane, the movie turns into this spiraling pit of horrible-ness. The investigation into the incident obviously turns up that our hero was drunk and stoned while flying, but that doesn’t matter, because his lawyer got that evidence thrown out of court.

Denzel Washington in Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis 2012 Movie Review

the aftermath…

So what is FLIGHT about? Nothing. Denzel Washington’s character is shown as an unapologetic, immoral and terrible dick of a person who’s got addiction issues that he never owns up to. This is what the movie focuses on more than anything else. The tension of the upcoming investigative hearing to determine if Whitaker had anything to do with the crash takes a back seat to his downfall and alcoholism.

I do have to give credit though to Denzel Washington for playing a character so well, that I did really dislike the guy, which was really the point, as misguided as it may have been. It’s a role where Washington has to convincingly make us dislike him, and he does it to perfection. The man gets ass-faced drunk from morning to night, with no second thought as to the consequences and somehow, we’re supposed to feel bad for him? He’s got a, let’s say ‘strained’ relationship with his grown son and ex wife, hooks up wit a recovering crack addict, who he’s a dick to as well. Which didn’t make any sense either.

Denzel Washington in Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis 2012 Movie Review

“I choose… drugs. Good bye.”

There is a sub plot about Whitaker hooking up with Kelly Reilly’s character, who is a crack addict trying to get better. She does get better, almost immediately, and then ends up leaving him because his own addiction is preventing her from moving on with her life. This had no point to it whatsoever, as it did nothing to the story, except fill screen time. There was no impact of this relationship on Washington’s character. He didn’t change. He wasn’t hurt by it. He was indifferent to the whole thing. So why was it even there?

The ending is even as inexplicable as the rest of the movie. When it comes down to Washington completely getting off the hook and being released of any wrong doing in the plane crash, he ends up confessing everything. Why? Because the hearing committee wanted someone to blame, and if not him, then his airhostess girl friend from the 1st scene, who died during the plane crash, would be blamed for the entire crash. So in a last minute gesture of loyalty… he confesses to everything and goes to jail for life. Where he finds redemption through a voice over and cheesy ending.

Denzel Washington in Flight directed by Robert Zemeckis 2012 Movie Review

“I’m stoned… let’s go temporarily lie to some authority figures!”

This ending would be a lot more believable if the Writer or Director established Whitaker having strong feelings for this airhostess. If they were in love, if his asshole behavior through the movie was due to him mourning for her death. Something, to indicate that her death, in his mind took center stage, over any of the other goings on. But they didn’t. They had sex. She died. He drank. Happy ending. That’s all we got.

So at the end, for that character and that relationship to be the defining factor of his supposed redemption… made no sense. FLIGHT is a go no where movie, the duration of which we see an unapologetic character drink himself into a life of utter chaos, with no redeeming factors whatsoever, and with an ending which abruptly shifts gear into a clichéd happy ending.

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


ruth · October 1, 2013 at 3:15 PM

Bummer you didn’t dig this one. I haven’t seen it yet so I just skimmed this review, but still I saw a spoiler 🙁 In any case, I’d think Denzel is still worth seeing.

    Shah Shahid · October 1, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Sorry for the Spoiler Ruth. I tried to warn you. My 1st paragraph before the rating is usually Spoiler-Free in case anyone decides to start then back out. Just an FYI.

    I will still watch anything by Washington, but it feels like he’s got more misses than hits recently.

Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · October 2, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I really liked this. It had its issues, such as a dodgy ending and Goodman’s weird character but I thought Washington’s performance was brilliant and really helped pull it along. Not perfect by any means but pretty entertaining by and large. Nice review mate.

    Shah Shahid · October 2, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    Thanks for the comment. Much appreciated.

    Washington was awesome in this. And to be fair, I will watch anything he does going forward, given that he’s one of the few actors that has solidified his awesome-ness, despite any mis-steps in the present.

    I just felt his performance was out of context in the story and execution of this. It went nowhere… I thought. I enjoyed Goodman’s abruptly weird appearances, despite feeling out of place.

CMrok93 · October 4, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Even though he didn’t win, Denzel definitely deserved the Oscar nomination because he is just great here and keeps this flick ticking, just when it seems to fall on it’s own, two feet from conventionality. Good review Shah.

    Shah Shahid · October 8, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    It seemed like an out of context performance. I wouldn’t say ‘Oscar’ by any means… but he was good. Like I keep saying, Washington is one of those actors whose performances are never in question, well rarely, it’s just an issue when everyone else around him can’t deliver like him.

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