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Flight (2012)

Drama Rated R

Flight is an awfully odd duck for a major studio movie. While I normally greet such anomalies with astonished glee, this one just left me befuddled.

Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Flight stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, a boozing, coke-snorting career pilot who manages to prevent a catastrophic plane crash despite nursing a monster hangover. When the ensuing investigation reveals that there were drugs and alcohol in his system, the movie attempts to become an intimate portrayal of addiction and denial.

Washington is reliably sturdy in the starring role, but he’s stuck in a woozy narrative. Whip meets a heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) in the hospital, and she becomes something of a sponsor/love interest as they shack up in the abandoned farmhouse Whip has inherited (her own addiction issues conveniently fall by the wayside). Meanwhile, the blatantly Christian elements – from the robed church choir that rescues the crash victims to Whip’s evangelizing co-pilot – are so awkwardly handled that there are moments when you feel as if you’re stuck in a church production like Fireproof.

This all makes Flight a puzzling curiosity; its real undoing lies in its ending. Whip is called to testify as part of the investigation, and without giving too much away I’ll only say that Washington sells the moment with every bone in his body, and it still rings false. With its harried finale, Flight isn’t true to the hard work of confession – let alone the even harder work of what will come after.