“Flight” is one of those movies that keeps throwing you for loops. Some of the loops are satisfying, while others just leave you discombobulated. The overall experience is worthwhile, even though I often found myself having difficulty getting emotionally invested in what was going on.
Denzel Washington plays “Whip” Whitaker, a veteran airline pilot with a substance abuse problem. He drinks like a fish, snorts cocaine and carouses with a flight attendant mere hours before climbing into the cockpit.
Once he’s in the captain’s chair, though, Whip is all business – seasoned, cocksure and steady. In fact, when the plane suffers a serious mechanical failure, he performs a virtually impossible maneuver to land the plane, saving more than 100 lives. He’s lauded as a national hero.
But when an investigation reveals that he was stoned at the time, Whip retreats into a cocoon of self-loathing. He falls in with Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a heroin addict decades his junior, as they help shore up each other’s crumbling identities.
Things slowly build to a big government hearing to assign blame for the crash. Will Whip be lauded or reviled? “Flight” is less about one man’s public journey from hero to reprobate than his descent into himself.