Saturday, November 3, 2012

'Flight': 'A Safe Way To Understand Hell'

Everything you've heard about Denzel Washington's performance in the remarkable "Flight" is true. It's likely the best of his career and it is one that is especially resonant with those of us recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.

He simply nails the addictive personality as Captain Whip Whitaker, who miraculously lands a disintegrating airplane, saving all but six of those on board, but faces the possibility of life in prison because he did it drunk. He acts from a script written by John Gatins and directed by Academy Award winner ("Forest Gump") Robert Zemekis, a man known more for action pictures than this kind of thoughtful, compelling, even upsetting work.

I found myself reliving difficult memories at every turn with Washington's portrayal of a man lying to himself and everybody who would listen, drinking himself to sure destruction and hanging on to the last thread of denial until it finally breaks in a predictable, but powerful finish.

Washington is surrounded by strong performances (and authentic southern accents, though Washington--to his everlasting credit--doesn't attempt one; he's from New York and it simply wouldn't work). The best of them is from John Goodman, a drug dealer and Whitaker's only real  remaining friend. This is the second scene-stealer in a couple of months for Goodman, who (with Alan Arkin) simply walked off with "Argo."

If you're a recovering drunk (or druggie), one who isn't recovering or somebody who's interested in how this disease works, the movie will get you inside for a while--and it will let you out. A safe way to understand hell, it is.


  1. It's good to hear a personal take on the film. I just got back from watching it myself and plan on writing a review. My take is completely different though. Of course, I'm only able to approach it from a cinematic angle, I'm sure it means so much more if you have a close connection to addiction.

    The one thing I think you're wrong about, this isn't even close to being the best performance of Denzel's career. Compared to John Q, Man on Fire, Training Day etc... "Flight" was probably a walk in the park for him. Not to say it was bad, it's just his career and talent is so exceptional.

  2. He is exceptional and this was his best performance, in my judgement. That's all I'm writing here. I do not claim to have the ultimate answer, to be a film expert or to fully understand all that goes into this discipline. I know what is meaningful and impressive to me and I appreciate this one far more than those you mentioned. By the way, I think his second-best performance is in "Glory!" (for which he won an Oscar). I am glad you appreciate it on a different level because it means the movie is not one-dimensional.

  3. By the way, I find it interesting that you say I'm "wrong" about the performance being Washington's best. I think that's the "wrong" word and the "wrong" approach. It would have been far better to have suggested that you disagree with my assessment without declaring that I'm wrong. How can you be wrong about a subjective opinion? It's right for me. Maybe not for you, but that's fine.

    1. I didn't mean it that way. I did say I "think you're wrong", but I totally agree it's all subjective. Being involved in movie blogging associations have given me a firm grip on just how far opinions can be separated. Sometimes I wonder if I've seen the same film as some of my peers. Either way, I meant no ill.

      I just finished my review, it's not well proof read, but I linked to this article at the bottom. You've got a legit perspective on the alcholism angle that i just can't match.