Whoever said that Oskar Schell from Incredibly Loud & Extremely Close was the most unlikeable character in cinema history had obviously not been considering Denzel Washington’s Captain Whip Whitaker from Flight. This guy is brutally unpleasant, abusing himself with alcohol and drugs to an almost cartoonish degree, smothering himself in chunky doses of self-deception, and displaying absolutely no redeeming features at all until the very end of the film, when he suddenly pulls a conscience out of the ether. Inherently, the story of an immoral and self-abusing person getting the revelation of how depraved he really is is intriguing to me, but Flight doesn’t sell me on it, even with the talents of Robert Zemekis and Denzel Washington in the forefront. Maybe the unpleasant world that the character lives in was just too gross for me to be able to enjoy as a film (it’s all quite blatant).
The advanced trailers / commercials for Flight, at least the ones that I saw, gave the impression that this film was going to be some sort of mystery thriller about a pilot who miraculously lands a doomed aircraft, and the ensuing investigation to find out “what really happened up there” – whether something supernatural, or some sort of conspiracy, or whatever. This isn’t an entirely inaccurate description of the plot, except that there isn’t really any mystery. It’s clear that Whitaker managed to land that plane because he is an extraordinary pilot, but he’s also a self-destructive drunkard, and so he’s rightly fearful when his heroics pull him into the limelight. So the story ends up really being about this man watching his world “crash” around him, and not really anything to do with the investigation itself.
Of course, Denzel Washington is a good actor, and does as well as expected. He is surrounded by a cast that includes Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood, who are all fine but underdeveloped. John Goodman has a memorable two-scene cameo as Whitaker’s partner in self-destruction. And the actual airplane disaster (as well as the build up to it) make the first third of the movie the most gripping part of it.
A while ago, I did a quick “average rating” for all the Robert Zemekis films I had seen. If I were to add this movie’s assessment into the mix, it drops the final score slightly, from 2.7 to 2.64.