Flight (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Written by||John Gatins|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Edited by||Jeremiah O'Driscoll|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$161.8 million|
Flight is a 2012 American drama film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot who miraculously crash-lands his plane after it suffers an in-flight mechanical failure, saving nearly everyone on board. Immediately following the crash, he is hailed a hero, but an investigation soon leads to questions that puts the captain in a different light.
Flight was the first live-action film directed by Robert Zemeckis since Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, both released in 2000, and his first R-rated film since Used Cars in 1980. It was the second collaboration of Denzel Washington and John Goodman, who had previously worked together in the 1998 film Fallen. It was also a box office success, grossing over $160 million worldwide and received mostly positive reviews. The film was nominated twice at the 85th Academy Awards, for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Original Screenplay (John Gatins).
Airline pilot captain Whip Whitaker (Washington) uses cocaine to wake up after a night of very little sleep in his Orlando hotel room. He pilots SouthJet Flight 227 to Atlanta which experiences severe turbulence at takeoff. Copilot Ken Evans (Geraghty) takes over while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and takes a nap. He is jolted awake as the plane goes into a steep dive. Unable to regain control, Whip is forced to make a controlled crash landing in an open field and loses consciousness on impact.
Nearby, heroin addict Nicole Maggen (Reilly) is on the verge of being evicted. After visiting a drug dealer, she overdoses and has to be wheeled out of the house by a paramedic. SouthJet Flight 227 flies overhead in the midst of its emergency landing.
Whip awakens in an Atlanta hospital with moderate injuries and is greeted by his old friend Charlie Anderson (Greenwood), who represents the airline's pilots union. He tells Whip that he managed to save 96 out of 102 people on board, losing two crew members and four passengers, and that his copilot is in a coma. Whip sneaks away for a cigarette in the stairwell and meets Nicole, who is recovering from her heroin overdose in the same hospital. The next morning, his friend and drug dealer Harling Mays (Goodman) picks him up from the hospital.
Having retired to his late father's farm, he meets Charlie and attorney Hugh Lang who explain that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) performed a drug test while he was unconscious, and it showed that Whip was intoxicated during the flight. The results could send him to prison on alcohol, drug, and manslaughter charges. Hugh promises to get the toxicology report voided on technical grounds. Meanwhile, Whip visits and soon becomes intimate with Nicole, but Whip's drinking habits clashes with Nicole's attempts to stay off drugs. Later at a crew member's funeral, he attempts to persuade a flight attendant who survived to tell the NTSB that he was sober on the flight.
Whip hears on the news that co-pilot Ken Evans has come out of his coma and pays him a visit. He learns that Evans has a slim chance of regaining his ability to walk unaided and probably won't be able to pilot an airplane again, yet Evans has no intentions of telling the NTSB that he knew Whip was drunk. Nicole, who was staying with Whip, decides to leave him after he was unable to break his habits. Hounding Whip, the media catches him drunk when he spontaneously drove to the home of his ex-wife and son, both of whom resent him. He drives to Charlie's house begging to stay until the NTSB hearing, vowing not to drink. The night before the hearing, Charlie and Hugh move Whip to a guarded hotel room to prevent him from drinking. Although his minibar contains no alcohol, he finds the door to the adjacent room unlocked and raids its minibar instead.
Charlie and Hugh discover him the next morning, passed out and still drunk. They call Harling, who revives him with cocaine. At the hearing, Ellen Block, the lead NTSB investigator, explains that a damaged elevator assembly jackscrew was the primary cause of the crash. She commends Whip on his valor and skill, explaining that no other pilots were able to land the plane in trial simulations of the crash. She then reveals that two empty vodka bottles were found in the trash of the plane, but none were served to passengers. She goes on to say that two of the crew members' toxicology reports were positive for alcohol, but one was excluded from the hearing and the other was from a deceased crew member, Trina. Block asks Whip if he believes Trina drank it. Rather than lie and permanently taint Trina's good name, Whip admits that it was him, and that he flew intoxicated. He also admits he's intoxicated at that moment.
Thirteen months later, an imprisoned Whip tells a support group of fellow inmates that he's glad to be sober and doesn't regret doing the right thing. Whip is seen looking at pictures of Nicole, family, and friends on the wall of his cell, along with greeting cards congratulating him on being sober for a year. He is working to rebuild his relationship with his son, who visits to talk with him about a college application essay on "the most fascinating person that I've never met." His son begins by asking, "Who are you?" As a plane flies overhead, Whip replies, "That's a good question."
- Denzel Washington as William "Whip" Whitaker, Sr.
- Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang
- Kelly Reilly as Nicole Maggen
- Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson
- John Goodman as Harling Mays
- Melissa Leo as Ellen Block
- Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thomason
- Nadine Velazquez as Katerina Márquez
- Brian Geraghty as Ken Evans
- Peter Gerety as Avington Carr
- Garcelle Beauvais as Deana Coleman
- Justin Martin as Will Whitaker, Jr.
- James Badge Dale as Gaunt Young Man
- Piers Morgan (cameo appearance)
Robert Zemeckis entered negotiations to direct in April 2011, and by early June had accepted, with Denzel Washington about to finalize his own deal. It marked the first time Zemeckis and Washington worked together on a motion picture.
By mid-September 2011, Kelly Reilly was in negotiations to play the female lead, with Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and John Goodman joining later in the month, and Melissa Leo and James Badge Dale in final negotiations. Screenwriter John Gatins said in early October 2011 that production would begin mid-month. Flight was largely filmed on location near Atlanta, Georgia, over 45 days in November 2011. The film's relatively small budget of $31 million, which Zemeckis later calculated was his smallest budget in inflation-adjusted dollars since 1980, was due to tax rebates from Georgia and from Zemeckis and Washington having waived their customary fees.
Gatins explained in a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times that the dramatic fictional crash depicted in Flight was "loosely inspired" by the 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which was caused by a broken jackscrew. That crash had no survivors. The airplane in Flight, a two-engine T-tail jet airliner, appears to be from the same model family as Alaska Airlines 261, a variant of the MD-80. Many elements are lifted from the accident into the film, such as the cause of the accident, segments of the radio communication and the decision to invert the airplane.
Flight opened in 1,884 theaters across North America on November 2, 2012. In its first week, the film ranked second in the domestic box office grossing $24,900,566 with an average of $13,217 per theater. Flight earned $93,772,375 domestically and $68,000,000 internationally for a total of $161,772,375, well above its $31 million production budget.
Flight received mostly positive reviews from critics. The film has an approval rating of 78% based on a sample of 219 critics on Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s consensus states "Robert Zemeckis makes a triumphant return to live-action cinema with Flight, a thoughtful and provocative character study propelled by a compelling performance from Denzel Washington." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on reviews from 40 critics.
Denzel Washington's performance received praise from various critics. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy wrote that the film "provides Denzel Washington with one of his meatiest, most complex roles, and he flies with it." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars (out of four) writing, "Flight segues into a brave and tortured performance by Denzel Washington—one of his very best. Not often does a movie character make such a harrowing personal journey that keeps us in deep sympathy all of the way." He also noted the plane's upside-down flight scene was "one of the most terrifying flight scenes I've ever witnessed" and called the film "nearly flawless". Ebert went on to name the film the sixth best of 2012. Although the film was not nominated for Best Picture, he later noted that he felt it deserved to be. Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Denzel Washington didn't get an Oscar nod for nothing: His performance as an alcoholic airline pilot ensnared by his own heroics is crash-and-burn epic."
The film received some criticism from airline pilots who questioned the film's realism, particularly the premise of a pilot being able to continue flying with a significant substance-abuse problem. The Air Line Pilots' Association in an official press release dismissed the film as an inaccurate portrayal of an air crew and stated that "we all enjoy being entertained, but a thrilling tale should not be mistaken for the true story of extraordinary safety and professionalism among airline pilots." An airline pilot also commented that "a real-life Whitaker wouldn't survive two minutes at an airline, and all commercial pilots—including, if not especially, those who've dealt with drug or alcohol addiction—should feel slandered by his ugly caricature." The pilot also criticised the portrayal of the relationship between copilot and captain, the decision of Whitaker to increase speed dangerously in a storm, and the ultimate dive and crash landing of Whitaker's aircraft.
Top ten lists
- 3rd – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
- 3rd – Rafer Guzmán, Newsday
- 6th – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
- 7th – Richard Roeper, RichardRoeper.com
- 7th – Kyle Smith, New York Post
- 8th – Brian Tallerico, Hollywood Chicago
- 9th – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
- 9th – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
Awards and nominations
- McCarthy, Todd (October 15, 2012). "Flight: New York Film Festival Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 24, 2012.
- Horn, John (October 20, 2012). "How the movie 'Flight' got off the ground". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- Flight at Box Office Mojo
- Kit, Borys (April 20, 2011). "Robert Zemeckis in Talks for Live-Action 'Flight' With Denzel Washington Circling". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Zeitchik, Steven (June 3, 2011). "Robert Zemeckis finally looks to take 'Flight'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- White, James (September 13, 2011). "Kelly Reilly Takes Flight". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Morris, Clint (September 22, 2011). "Exclusive : Cheadle, Greenwood join Zemeckis’s Flight". Moviehole.com. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Fleming, Mike (September 28, 2011). "John Goodman Boards Robert Zemeckis' Flight With Denzel Washington". Deadline.com. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Kit, Borys (September 30, 2011). "Melissa Leo, James Badge Dale Booking 'Flight' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 20, 2012.
- Warner, Kara (October 5, 2011). "Denzel Washington's "Flight" Is 12 Years In The Making". MTV. Retrieved November 7, 2011.
- Horn, John (21 October 2012). "How the movie 'Flight' became airborne". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Flight at Rotten Tomatoes Flixster
- "Flight". Metacritic. CBS.
- Ebert, Roger. "Roger Ebert Flight review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
- Ebert, Roger. "Ebert's Top Movies of 2012". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
- Entertainment Weekly Staff (February 8, 2013). "The Must List". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 8.
- Smith, Patrick (November 18, 2012). "Real Pilots Laugh at 'Flight'". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on November 26, 2012. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
- ALPA News Release. Alpa.org (October 31, 2012). Retrieved July 13, 2013.
- Real Pilots Laugh At ‘Flight’. The Daily Beast (November 18, 2012). Retrieved July 13, 2013.
- Official website
- Flight at the Internet Movie Database
- Flight at AllMovie
- Flight at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flight at Metacritic
- Flight at Box Office Mojo
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