The incident, along with a possible prison sentence, brings Whitaker’s addictions into focus. Like most addicts, the tragedy initially wakes him up, even to the idea of quitting cold turkey. But also like many addicts that doesn’t last long, and when circumstances look grim he returns to his vices.  At every turn, just when the movie has you rooting for him, it depicts or reveals something so dark and repellent about Whitaker that it basically dares us to keep hoping. It’s an absolute emotional roller-coaster.

The ingenious trick of the whole screenplay is how it creates a competing sense of justice, pitting our desire to see the hero not held responsible for the crash he prevented versus our recognition that his sins are many and need to be exposed. Our hope for the former requires a denial of the latter and it’s nerve-racking. To compound our anxiety, Whitaker resorts to cover-ups rather than honesty, to relapsing rather than being humbled into sobriety. There’s a vicious cycle at play here, one that addicts of any stripe will painfully recognize.

Eventually the matter of God Himself has to be wrestled with, and is. While not going into a deep faith-based depiction, the mixture of addiction and tragedy evoke the instinctive human question, “Where’s God in all this?” It starts with the legal “Act of God” categorization and becomes something more soul-searching. Which is 'The Act of God' here? The lives saved? The deaths? The crash itself? Having Whitaker at the helm? All of it? None of it? These questions come from not merely a need for answers but for control – the very thing addicts lack but are unwilling to admit.

At its core, that’s what Flight is really about – one man’s inability, and fear, to admit he’s lost control. Like any addict, Whitaker believes he can quit whenever he wants. But he can’t. There’s a scene late in the film about a Moment Of Truth decision. What makes it resonate is the hard fact that temptation will always find you. It has a way of sneaking past our firewalls of structure. Even accountability has its limits.

Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) and Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek) offer solid supporting work as the two men working to exonerate Whitaker despite disgust at his unrepentant conduct. John Goodman (Argo) is welcome comic relief as Whitaker’s pusher and enabler. James Dale Badge steals his one scene as a foul-mouthed terminal cancer patient who's found peace with God, but it’s virtual unknown Kelly Reilly who stands out as a fellow addict; her perfomance is deeply felt and human.

The keen insight Flight ultimately reveals is that the only way to overcome addiction is not through protection; it’s through confession. It’s in that moment, when the lies have finally stopped, that the heart whispers "God help me."

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Excessive drinking and alchoholic consumption, drunkenness, throughout (depicted as destructive). Mixing of drinking and drugs. Several instances of smoking. A few scenes of snorting cocaine. One scene of a woman shooting up heroin. A couple of instances of drinking while driving. Characters discuss how to use some illegal drugs to counter the effects of others.
  • Language/Profanity: Full range of profanities, at times pervasive. F-word is used often, as is the S-word, with occasional use of others including two instances of the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Female full-frontal nudity in opening scene, seen a few times. A scene on a porn set. Backsides of nude women seen in background. Male nudity from behind. Another seen of male nudity from behind, but from a hospital robe. A woman lays in bed with nude back exposed. A man and woman kiss passionately as a precursor to sex. A joke is made about porn mags and masturbation. A crude reference to oral sex.
  • Violence/Other: An extended harrowing sequence of a plane crash. Bloody bodies seen in aftermath.

Publication date: November 2, 2012