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“Flight” Takes Off Strong

By Alyssa Pattison

Flight, directed and co-produced by Robert Zemeckis, is a story that loosely resembles the events of Flight 1549 piloted by hero Chesley Sullenberger, which was crash landed in the Hudson River in 2009. Flight is Zemeckis’ first live-action film since Cast Away in 2000, after which he does not disappoint.

The film begins catching a moment in the daily life of main character William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who wakes up hungover and sleep deprived in his hotel room in Orlando.

After relying on cocaine to wake him up, he gets to work flying to Atlanta. Shortly after take off they experience turbulence, which the overly confident Whip approaches aggressively. Afterwards, when skies clear, he passes the control to his nervous copilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) and opts for a drink and a nap.

He is abruptly awakened by a mechanical noise as his plane begins falling from the sky. Eventually, he is able to crash-land beside a church in an open field, but loses consciousness in the midst of the crash.

When Whip regains consciousness, he awakes in a hospital room to find Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), a representative of the airline’s pilot union and also a former colleague and friend of Whip’s. He informs Whip that his actions saved 96 of the 102 passengers. By the nation’s image, Whip is regarded as a hero.

However, days later it is revealed through a toxicology screening that Whip was intoxicated when admitted into the hospital, a fact that threatens Whip going to prison on drug and manslaughter charges. Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), Whip’s attorney, convinces the National Transportaion Safety Board who performed the screening to disregard the results.

Whip is able to convince himself that no one else could have landed the plane like he had, and begins a trail of lies. Overcome with guilt, Whip continues to feed his alcohol addiction. The evening before the NTSB hearing, Charlie and Hugh leave Whip in an alcohol-free hotel room to guarantee he won’t drink.

In the middle of the night, Whip finds a door connecting the room to another room with a mini fridge stocked with alcohol and is found the next morning passed out drunk. They call in Whip’s drug dealer, Harling Mays (John Goodman), who gives Whip cocaine before the hearing to perk him up.

At the hearing, Whip is commended by the investigators on his actions during the crash, as they explain no other pilots were able to safely land in the same conditions. Although he is technically off the hook, Whip cannot stand the guilt and comes clean about flying drunk and about his alcoholism.

While a lengthy movie to sit through, and at some points laughably obvious, Flight contains a deep moral message, making it worth the watch.