Popcorn Preview: Flight

Film: Flight (2012)
Cast includes: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl), Tamara Tunie (The Devil's Advocate), Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes), Bruce Greenwood (Deja Vu), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski), Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Forest Gump)
Genre: Drama (138 minutes)

The 7:14 phone call wakes Whip and Trina. They have to get moving to make their 9:00 flight. Arguing with the ex-wife is not a good way to start the day, especially with a killer hangover. A line of coke does the trick. "Let's get to it!" It's a really stormy day, but the Orlando to Atlanta flight is going to be leaving on time. "Morning, Captain Whitaker," says Trina. The crew pretends they don't know that Whip and Trina have a "relationship." "Could you get me coffee black and a couple of aspirins," Whip asks Margaret. "Got a bit of a headache." Copilot Evans finds Whitaker's behavior erratic and disturbing, but Whip doesn't care. "Let's push it... got an on-time record to keep..." Even though they're cleared for takeoff, the weather is truly crap... "some rough chop," says Whitaker over the loudspeaker. Then he deliberately disobeys ground control to power into an area of clear air. That gets a round of applause from the passengers. What happens next: "severe turbulence... nosedive... loss of hydraulics... uncontrolled decent..." is a disaster situation only an ace fighter pilot could handle.

The crash landing leaves Whip unconscious. When he comes to in the hospital, he learns that of the 102 souls on his flight, 96 survived, 4 passengers and 2 crewmembers were killed, including Trina. No time for grieving though, the NTSB is all over the investigation. Meanwhile, "There is all kinds of crazy news people out here... You'll never have to pay for a drink again. You're a rock star," says Harling. Despite obvious equipment failure and a heroic crash landing, Whip is under the NTSB microscope. It's his union rep and lawyer, who tells him that his blood tested positive for alcohol and cocaine. "A couple of glasses of wine the night before," he says. They know it's a lie, but they coach him anyway on what he needs to do if he's going to avoid possible life in prison.

It's not easy for Whip to comprehend the seriousness of his situation. Nicole, an alcoholic and drug addict he meets in the hospital, is determined to get clean, but Whip thinks he can beat this thing by faking it. He's been faking it for so long, lying has become an even bigger preoccupation than drinking. In most ways, Flight is a movie about addiction. The plane sequence in the beginning is exciting, but the core of the film is Whip's struggle with substance abuse. It's a topic that's not uncommon in independent and art house films, but it's not generally a crowd pleaser topic. There are a number of elements in Flight that are intended to appeal to mainstream audiences... some that may seem a rather out of place. But that said, Whip's journey is painfully well done. Denzel Washington's portrayal is compelling and realistic. Is there a "lifelong limit of lies"? There's no way to know until you reach it.

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
The pilot who miraculously lands an ill-fated flight comes under investigation for alcohol and drug use

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, nudity, sexual content, drugs)
Audience: Young adults & Grown-ups
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Mood: Sober
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Computer effects & Nicely varnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking

Read more Popcorn Previews at www.popcorndiary.com

You may want to read about other films with themes of substance abuse: