Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flying High: Flight with Denzel Washington

Tonight we went to see Flight with Denzel Washington.  Denzel is one of my favorite actors, and this is one of his best films, ever.  The movie was captivating.  By the way, the director did the Back to the Future movies, Forrest Gump, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Warning, there may be a few plot spoilers ahead.  Probably nothing you wouldn't have heard in reviews or have seen in previews. I will not give away the powerful conclusion or the touching denouement.  

There were more references to God and His ordaining events than in any movie in recent memory.  The way God was woven in wasn't cheesy, and it fit in the plot well.  Though the co-pilot and one of the flight-attendants are made out to be a bit over zealous, the Christian faith isn't disrespected and believers aren't made out to be idiots.    

The big tension in the movie is the central ethical dilemma you struggle with while the plot unfolds.  Denzel's character, "Whip" is drunk, and on coke when the plane crashes.  Yet, he saves countless lives, only 6 people die in the crash, and had Whip not handled the plane the way he did, everyone on the flight and perhaps a populated city center would've died as well.  So, now, Whip's toxicology report shows the substances he's on.  What should be done?  Do we bury the report & hale him as a hero or sentence him to life in prison for six counts of manslaughter?  That question is played out throughout the movie exceptionally well.   

In the hospital a day or two after the crash, while Whip is being treated for his injuries, he ends up meeting a heroin addict.  She is seen being taken away in an ambulance in an earlier scene, because she overdoses at the exact moment the plane crashes.  They enter into a romantic relationship.  You are left wondering at first, how will two addicts cope, and at times you wonder who will die first from their self-destructive lifestyles. 

The movie is so much deeper than the crash.  It's about Whip's battle with alcoholism and truth.  Whip's disposition for me, was reminiscent of  Ben Sanderson's, played by Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas." Will Whip face up to the truth he's an alcoholic, or will he remain in denial?  He has so many people on his side, from Union Reps to high profile lawyers, to the sleazy drug dealer excellently played by John Goodman.   You will never know until the end how Whip will respond, and if you think you can predict the ending, good luck.  

The biggest battle for Whip is, how long can a man lie to avoid his consequences?  Will he lie about his battle with substance abuse, even when he's under oath?  Will he ever own up and be held accountable?   On the one hand, you desperately want him to lie.  You want him to avoid prison because he's a hero.  On the other hand, you want him man-up and take responsibly for being intoxicated while flying, because that's the right thing to do.  The plot gives you an emotional tug-of-war like good movies should.

Sadly, I won't be taking my boys to see Flight.  For the first 5 or 10 minutes of the movie, Whip is in a hotel room with a flight-attendant, one who will die in the crash.  The room is messed up, and it's clear they partied all night long.  She's fully naked, and she gets a lot of camera time prancing around the room.  This is one of those nudity scenes where as a dad you can honestly say, it adds nothing to the plot and only ruins the potential for a larger audience's viewing.  And truthfully, that's a shame, because the sobering truth of the movie's plot has a great moral that would be a great lesson for adolescents and teens.  Maybe when it comes out on DVD we'll watch it and just fast forward through the inappropriate part.

At face value an alcoholic pilot facing life in prison doesn't sound like a captivating plot.  But it is because you keep believing he will turn a corner in his struggle and you want to believe in him, even though he fails time and again. But for some reason, you never let yourself lose hope in Whip as he wrestles with good & evil within himself -- which is where the real battle is played out in each of our lives.  

No comments: