Flight (2012 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Zemeckis|
|Produced by||Laurie MacDonald
Walter F. Parkes
|Written by||John Gatins|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Editing by||Jeremiah O'Driscoll|
|Studio||Parkes + MacDonald Prods.
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures (USA/Worldwide/UK)
Zon Audiovisuais (Portugal)
|Running time||138 minutes|
Flight is a 2012 American drama film starring Denzel Washington. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, his first live-action film since Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, which were both released in 2000, and the first R-rated film directed by him since 1980's Used Cars, as well as the first ImageMovers release to date to have an R rating. Flight was nominated for two Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards: Best Actor (for Washington) and Best Original Screenplay (for John Gatins).
On October 14, 2011, Airline captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) awakens in his Orlando hotel room with flight attendant Katerina Márquez (Nadine Velazquez) after a night of sex, drinking, drug use, and very little sleep. After using cocaine to wake up, he boards SouthJet Flight 227 as pilot to Atlanta. After Whip threads the plane through severe turbulence at takeoff, copilot Ken Evans takes over while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and takes a nap. He is jolted awake as the plane begins an uncommanded descent and the aircraft goes into a steep dive. Unable to regain pitch control, Whip rolls the plane upside down to arrest the dive. While this is happening in the cockpit, a young boy passenger is not seated properly so Katerina leaves her seat to save the child, ultimately causing her own death.
Meanwhile Nicole (Kelly Reilly) leaves her house to her drug dealer after begging for some heroin. She is told it is very strong Afghan heroin and is told only to smoke it and use some cocaine to pick her up if she takes too strong a dose. When she returns home she finds her door unlocked and enters to find her landlord. She tricks him and locks him out, knocking over her box of drugs. She injects the heroin and rapidly passes out. As she is wheeled out of the house by a paramedic, the upside down SouthJet flies overhead.
On the plane, the engines fail and Whip realizes they will not make it to a runway, so he rolls the plane upright and just barely makes an emergency landing in a field in Clayton County, Georgia. The wing clips the top of a church as it passes over. Whip loses consciousness on impact and is dragged out of the aircraft by a passenger.
Whip awakens in an Atlanta hospital with moderate injuries and is greeted by his old friend Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), who represents the airline's pilots union. He tells Whip that he saved 96 out of 102 people on board, losing two crew and four passengers, but a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) official informs him Katerina was among those killed. While sneaking a cigarette in the stairwell, Whip meets Nicole who is recovering from a heroin overdose and promises to visit her when they leave the hospital. In the morning, his friend and drug dealer, Harling Mays (John Goodman), picks him up and sneaks him away from the hospital.
Whip drives to his late father's farm and dumps out all his alcohol. When he meets Charlie and attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), they explain that the NTSB performed a drug test while he was unconscious showing that Whip was intoxicated. The results could send him to prison on alcohol, drug, and manslaughter charges. Hugh promises to get the toxicology report voided on technical grounds, but Whip leaves in a fury and seeks out Nicole.
He finds Nicole bailing on her lease, bribes her landlord not to pursue her, and brings her to the farm. Nicole and Whip soon become intimate, but Whip begins drinking again while Nicole is trying to stay clean and sober. He then attends the funeral of Katerina Márquez whereupon he meets Margaret. Whip persuades Margaret to tell the NTSB that he was sober on the day of the crash.
Nicole brings him to a recovery meeting. Whip leaves early to visit with his copilot Ken Evans who remains hospitalized, has recently come out of his induced coma, but remains severely injured. He tells Whip that both his legs and pelvis are crushed and his has little to no chance of walking unaided and no chance of ever flying a plane again. Whip is sympathetic towards Evans' injuries. However Evans explains how he knew Whip was drunk and how he could smell the gin and vodka on Whip, but believes all people were put on Earth for a reason, and Whip's hasn't come as yet, therefore Evans will not tell the NTSB about Whip being drunk. Nevertheless, when Whip offers to take Nicole for a ride the next day in the Cessna in his barn while holding a bottle of beer, she leaves him in the morning, leaving a note for him while he sleeps. Whip goes into a rage and destroys some of his belongings.
Whip finds the media outside his farm's gate and drives drunk to the home of his ex-wife and son, who compel him to leave. In leaving his wife's home, he is mobbed by the press and does not answer questions well. Whip flees to Charlie's home and begs to stay with Charlie's family, vowing not to drink again before the NTSB hearing. The night before the hearing, Whip is moved into a guarded hotel room to ensure he does not get drunk. His minibar has only nonalcoholic beverages, but when he finds the door to the adjacent room unlocked, Whip discovers it has a full minibar.
Charlie and Hugh find him the next morning, passed out, and heavily intoxicated. They call Harling, who revives him with cocaine for the hearing. At the hearing, Ellen Block (Melissa Leo), 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 simulations of the crash.
Then she reveals that two empty vodka bottles were found in the trash of the plane, but none were served to the passengers. Only one of the crew's toxicology reports was positive for alcohol, although one was excluded. Since Katerina's report was positive for alcohol, Block asks Whip if he believes that she drank it. Rather than lie and permanently taint her good name, Whip admits that he drank it, that he flew intoxicated, and that he is intoxicated at that moment.
Thirteen months later, an imprisoned Whip tells a support group of fellow inmates that he is glad to be sober and does not regret doing the right thing, because he finally feels "free". He tells the support group he lost his piloting license, but not his faith in telling the truth. He has pictures of Nicole and other 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?" 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)
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 and in which the pilots briefly attempted to recover from catastrophic loss of control by flying the aircraft upside down. 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.
The landing resembles that of Scandinavian Airlines Flight 751, also an MD-80 family aircraft. Like in the film, SK 751 suffered a flameout, glided and made a forced landing in a field, where it broke up but remained largely intact. Despite a few serious injuries, all survived.
Flight has received mostly positive reviews. The film has an approval rating of 78% based on a sample of 217 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% 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. 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.
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 (2012-10-31). Retrieved on 2013-07-13.
- Real Pilots Laugh At ‘Flight’. The Daily Beast (2012-11-18). Retrieved on 2013-07-13.
- Official website
- Flight at the Internet Movie Database
- Flight at allmovie
- Flight at Rotten Tomatoes
- Flight at Metacritic
- Flight at Box Office Mojo