The more time that passes since I’ve seen Flight, the better a film it becomes in my estimation. I believe I gave it a 9.0 when it came out, and I’d up that to a 9.75 today. It is only because Denzel Washington had the misfortune to be nominated against Daniel Day-Lewis playing Abraham Lincoln that prevented the actor from getting his third Oscar. Captain Whip Whitaker is, arguably, the best performance of a career stuffed full of great performances. The best scene from the film is the jaw-dropping crash landing Whitaker performs that saves all but one life on his aircraft. The problem is that at the time he pulled off this feat, Whitaker was drunk and high on cocaine.
Flight is the best film about addiction I’ve ever seen. If you’ve struggled with addiction or know anyone who has, it is an uncomfortable movie at times because it is just THAT dead-on in its depiction of the life of an addict. It also raises an interesting moral and ethical question. They stuck everyone they could in a simulator recreating the conditions that lead to the crash. In every case, every person on that plane died. Is Whip still a hero for saving those lives even though he was intoxicated? Or is he responsible for the one life that was lost and the ones he saved don’t matter? This is a film that got way too little praise, and should have been considered as the landmark drama it was. Not many R-rated dramas of substance get made anymore, and this was one that needed the R and had a lot to say.
All that being said, after Cast Away and Flight, I’m never getting on a plane with Robert Zemeckis even if he is a pilot. The actual crash is famous for the iconic upside-down shot, but it works so well in building tension because you experience most of it from the pilot’s point of view. It’s claustrophobic and nerve-wracking in its constraining view, then you’re blown back into the big picture and it’s all the more effective for your having been jammed in the cockpit. Brilliant directing, F/X and acting make this a scene for the ages.