“This thing is so heavy it’s killed me.”
Earlier this year I saw Smashed, a film about a pair of alcoholics and how recovery changes one’s relationship with everyone around them. I was harsh on the film saying that it refused to give the subject the weight that it deserved. Somehow seeing Flight has made me re-evaluate that decision as Robert Zemeckis forgets how weight even feels as scene to scene we, and the writers of the film, shift the weight from silly to serious with few reason linking the two.
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an alcoholic. Before that though he’s a fantastic pilot who on a routine flight, that he operated under the influences of alcohol and cocaine, that went horribly wrong he saved a plane full of people from certain death.
The film has to straddle two different notions: (1) Whip is an alcoholic who is yet to hit rock bottom; and (2) Is the fact that he was drunk/high relevant given the feat he achieved that day? These core thoughts are what Flight wants to discuss, however it feels as though it dictates them rather than tries to really discuss them.
While still in the enjoyable first fifteen minutes of the film, when we’re being shown some great cinema in the crash sequence, we’re also being introduced to Nicole (Kelly Reilly) who’s a drug addict. Throughout that introductory scene as we’re all fixated on Whip and his immense feat we’re constantly pulled out of the film to wonder what this plane crash has to do with this completely unrelated character who’s just now overdosing on one pill, powder or what else they do to feel ‘awesome’. However, soon after the crash, as we see Whip wake up in the hospital, we see that we’re introduced to Nicole so that she’s established and we can have these two characters meet as they then develop a relationship.
This therefore creates a parallel as two addictions meet. Where we see Whip initially make the stance to give up his own, throughout the film he constantly is unable to hold his ground against his demon. However, Nicole, possibly from seeing Whip, is given more and more fuel to keep strong. The problem with all of this is that from scene to scene the writers never seem to have full grasp of what our protagonist is truly feeling. He’s so wishy washy that it almost feels apt that the film is released in the middle of an election season. Add the fact that the film has a smattering of cameo performances that jump in and out of the film, including: John Goodman, Brian Geraghty and Tamara Tunie; and each of these moments come with their own tonal shifts. I’m not even sure if Zemeckis wanted me to laugh at Goodman’s drug dealing antics or be saddened by Washington’s relapsing in their scenes together.
The film as a whole is a failing and if viewed at all should be done in a manner such that you can shut it off after fifteen minutes is over and feel good for seeing a great edit.