"Flight" is a difficult movie to categorize. Few movies feature a character so hell-bent on self-destruction such as this ("The Bad Lieutenant" comes to mind), that we're forced to root for their inevitable downfall in hopes it may spur some chance at redemption. Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot forced to make a tough landing after a night of partying with one of the flight attendants. Once onboard the plane, he attends to his hangover with a couple of mini bottles of vodka in his big cup of orange juice. Does it straighten him out? After a hair-raising take off through a scary storm, the crew is confronted with a malfunctioning pitch control that sends the plane into a fatal nosedive. It's only through Whip's quick thinking and daring skills as a pilot that the plane and (most) of it's passengers are saved. After being released from the hospital, he contemplates drying out, even going so far as to throw away all his booze, but news of an investigation into the crash, and the results of his blood alcohol test soon send him racing back to the bottle. In the midst of enablers, even a blossoming relationship with a fellow addict (Kelly Reilly) can't pull him out of the tailspin he finds himself in.
Flight is one of the strongest performances Denzel Washington has ever delivered and will probably earn him an oscar nomination. His portrayal of Whip is subtle, one of slowly growing desperation as he struggles to maintain the lie he lives. The character is such a successful liar, he suffers no ill effects in his professional life from this deceit he lives, and yet he suffers internally. It's a great weight to keep yourself afloat under, this crushing lifestyle of drugs and alchohol and ever-worsening morale. This movie reminded me of a song by Bob Dylan, "Ballad in Plain D", with the lyric "My friends in the prison, they ask unto me, how good how good does it feel to be free, and I answer them most mysteriously, are birds free from the chains of the skyway?" ie., the most confining prisons are the ones we construct within our own minds.