Mechanical failure results in an out-of-control dive for a airliner flown by Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, a veteran pilot who miraculously crash lands the plane, saving the lives of all but six of the people on board.
You'll never see FLIGHT on an airplane, because the frantic scenes of the dive and crash landing are absolutely terrifying.
Whip is definitely a hero, but with a major flaw. He just can't admit that he has a drinking problem even though alcohol and drugs have already destroyed his marriage and alienated him from his teenage son.
Plus, he was drunk and stoned even as he brought that plane down. His drug supplier and enabling friend played by John Goodman provides comic relief. "You're a hero, man!" he tells Whip. "You'll never have to buy a drink in this town again."
Whip's real friend, an airline union rep played by Bruce Greenwood, brings in a highly skilled lawyer played by Don Cheadle.
Cheadle: An initial report shows that you had alcohol in your system.
Whip: (as he shrugs) Doesn't mean anything. Had a couple of drinks the night before the flight.
Cheadle: This toxicology report states that you were drunk.
Unfortunately, this is the only scene released for television that shows what FLIGHT is really about: an alcoholic's struggle.
The film is an intimate character study of a man in flight from himself, a charismatic leader the audience is rooting for in spite of mixed feelings about his drinking.
We don't want Whip to go to prison but we do want to see him tackle his real problem with addiction. And that conflict creates real suspense that lasts for the entire film. Will Whip lie to the NTSB? Do we want him to?
Washington is more than up to the challenge of showing Whip's anger and denial, his resistance, his vulnerability, his kindness, his desperation, and his strength. At one point he says, "No one could have landed that plane like I did."
That's true, and no one can stop whip from drinking. It's a choice he'll have to make himself.
FLIGHT is one of the year's best films,