is about as subtle as a plane crash. And the plane crash at the beginning of Flight
ain’t too subtle, either. At 30,000 feet, a commercial airliner carrying more than 100 passengers descends suddenly into free fall above rural Atlanta. Its pilot, Capt. William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington)—who is seen earlier surreptitiously gulping a screwdriver—is passed out in his seat. Jolted awake, Whitaker takes the controls and, with the composure of someone parallel parking a Smart Car, guides the craft into a roll and lands relatively calmly in a field. He saves the lives of nearly everyone on board but clips the steeple of a small church on the way down, thus kicking off a film packed with references to “acts of God,” a montage of heroin use set to “Under the Bridge” and, near its end, a close-up of a single tear rolling down a cheek. Director Robert Zemeckis squanders a rich opportunity to question the nature of heroism in the Media Age: Would we, for instance, think any different of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s 2009 heroics on the Hudson if we knew he was out doing blow and banging flight attendants the night before? Instead, Flight
is a movie about how flying planes drunk is a bad idea. Even Washington, so often preternaturally commanding, is at a loss: All stuttering and bitter-beer face, he offers only a glimpse of how his self-parodying Pacino Years will look. Then again, this is a movie that, at its dramatic climax, takes a jarring, implausible slide into Hangover
-style drug humor. It’s a wreck nobody had a chance of surviving.