Airline pilots, for the most part, are like the mysterious man behind the curtain. Passengers only get a glimpse of them when exiting the plane and hear their voices once in a while over the intercom. These guys have hundreds of lives in their hands and we just take it for granted that they are not drunk out of their minds. Robert Zemeckis‘ Flight is about a very talented alcoholic pilot who averts a major disaster and winds up nosediving right into his dark inner-demons. More on Paramount’s Flight Blu-ray after the jump.
Denzel Washington plays William “Whip” Whitaker, an extremely talented commercial airline pilot who also happens to be a massive alcoholic and cocaine user. Booze and blow are what keep him going and somehow he manages to fly under their influence. During a routine flight between Orlando and Atlanta, the plane suffers a major wing malfunction and winds up in a speeding nosedive. Whip, who just downed two nips of vodka, pulls out all his skills and intuitive talents to stop the plane’s rapid descent and crash it into a field – saving the lives of all but six passengers.
The plane crash scene is absolutely harrowing. It’s the kind of scene that will terrify anyone who’s afraid of flying. It goes on for about seven minutes and every second had my ass clenching tighter. Robert Zemeckis, the editor, and the effects crew created a perfectly suspenseful and thrilling moment with that crash. Bravo, fellas.
Whip awakens in a hospital room with Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), an airline union representative who sticks his neck out for Whip throughout the film despite being pretty disgusted with his actions. He lets him know he’s a hero and he pulled off a goddamn miracle, but there’s some legal stuff they have to go through to protect the airline. The authorities discover that Whip was shitfaced during the miraculous landing and now the National Transportation Safety Board wants his ass. The union provides him with a criminal negligence lawyer, Don Cheadle whose job it is to bury the claims about Whip’s blood-alcohol content. If he fails, Whip can face manslaughter charges.
It’s an interesting quandary. On one hand he’s completely innocent. His drinking didn’t cause the wing to malfunction. On the other he endangers hundreds of people’s lives every day by flying under the influence. The movie isn’t really about his innocence though. It’s about Whip’s turmoil and the personal struggle with his demons. The whole world is trying to paint him as a hero, but all he wants to do is retreat to a bottle and forget everything. He knows he’ll have to inevitably face the NTSB, which he might be able to fool, but he can’t lie to himself about his addiction.
Anyone who’s ever been or known an addict will recognize the truth in Denzel’s performance. It’s a heartbreaking experience watching Whip constantly relapse and draw us into impossibly awkward situations because of his drinking. At one of his lowest moments, he convinces his ultra-religious co-pilot to lie in his testimony. He also keeps lying to his ex-junkie girlfriend (who he met in the hospital) and his teenage son, dragging everyone he knows down to the gallows with him.
The relapse and redemption plot does get redundant and achieve an after-school special vibe, however. Maybe it takes some sermonizing for some people to change their lives. With Zemeckis at the controls, Flight is a terrifically moving drama anchored by one of the greatest actors alive. You really root for this talented slob to sober up and never, ever get behind the wheel of a plane again.
Paramount presents Flight in 1080p 1.85:1. The transfer is perfect and offers really crisp details. You can even read all of the liquor labels in the mini-bar! The colors are clean throughout and there’s simply no imperfections. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is particularly amazing during the crash scene. It’s a whirlwind of sound elements that completely absorbs you.
“Origins of Flight” (10:30) features writer John Gatins, Zemeckis, Greenwood, and Denzel discussing the film’s origins and themes as well as some behind the scenes info such as casting.
“The Making of Flight” (11:30) features much of the cast and crew as well as the flight trainer who discuss set design, constructing the crashed airplane, Denzel’s training in a flight simulator, and other aspects of the film.
“Anatomy of a Plane Crash” (8:00) features the cast and crew, most notable visual effects supervisor Kevin Baillie and stunt coordinator Charles Croughwell, who discuss the various effects and stunts that went into the crash scene.
“Q&A Highlights” (14:15) LA Times’ John Horn hosts a cast and crew Q&A session.
DVD and Ultra-violet copies.