Monday, November 5, 2012

Movie Review: Flight

Addiction is a condition that affects many families. Even though the pain that the addict's loved ones suffer cannot be taken lightly, the inner torture the addict themselves endure is a burden that sometimes goes untold.

Flight is the story of William "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a functioning alcoholic pilot. After landing a doomed plane, the crash investigation threatens to reveal Whip's alcoholism so he must choose to voluntarily confront his addiction or be forced to by the federal investigation.

Flight puts you inside the psyche of an addict, revealing the helplessness and inner conflict of addiction. It didn't ask for your sympathy, but rather gave you a look at the human struggling with an addiction. As an addict, Whip lied about his addiction to everyone around him: His now ex-wife, son, job, and his new love interest, Nicole (Kelly Reilly). But Whip's blood cannot lie because his toxicology report after the crash is positive for alcohol and cocaine. In the days after the crash, Whip intermittently quit numerous times but relapsed whenever he was threatened or needed comfort. The decision to relapse was never easy. Whip knew the cycle he was starting again but once he was back in it he embraced it. The film's humanization of addiction was painfully real.

But Flight was the tale of two addicts. Whip meets Nicole while in an Atlanta hospital recouping from his crash injuries as she's recovering from a heroin overdose. Nicole tries to show Whip that he has the choice to not get high and to be sober but just as he's lied all of his life, Whip denies having a problem to Nicole. Nicole contrasted Whip's efforts to get clean after overdosing due to a relapse of her own. The episode only strengthened Nicole's determination to stay clean and she payed it forward by trying to help Whip as an accountability partner and friend.

I believe the title of the movie, Flight, had nothing to do with any physical plane or Whip being a pilot, as the movie is marketed. To me, Flight meant high from drugs in the life of an addict and the physical plane crash that Whip survived was symbolic of his coming crash. Just as he took control of the situation to save the doomed plane, Whip has to take control of his addiction because if not then he will surely die when his addiction crashes his life. Denzel's performance in Flight is more Oscar-worthy than Training Day as Denzel played the many faces of the alcoholic cocaine abuser. He was an emotionally absent ex-husband and father, a happy drunk, a belligerent coke head, an old friend, and a knight in shining armor.

I'm trying to keep it short because the movie hit on a lot and I haven't even addressed the religious undertones of Flight. But I'll leave you with the last line of Flight which cut very deep. Whip's son, Will, asked his father, "Who are you?".

Addiction robs sons of that answer.


Disclaimer: I’m an employee of Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner, however the views expressed in this post are of my own.

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