Flight Robert Zemeckis’ first live-action film in 12 years is about Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a top-flight airline pilot who’s also a hopeless drunk and drug user. Whitaker is hung over and drinking onboard when his plane fails, forcing him to make a heroic emergency landing. Though Whitaker’s deft maneuvers save most of the passengers, toxicology tests reveal his intoxication, and he faces possible manslaughter charges. The story is loosely based on the case of Canadian pilot Robert Piché, who landed a nose-diving plane, only to have his drug-smuggling past come to light. There’s much to savor in this traditionally made (if overlong) film, including white-knuckle special effects and strong performances by Denzel, Kelly Reilly as a recovering heroin addict and John Goodman as Whitaker’s wild-man dealer. John Gatins’ script traverses the expected drunk-movie clichés but applies graceful character shading and explores the story’s moral complexities.
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