Several years ago, Captain Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, III became a national hero by miraculously landing a plane full of passengers on the Hudson River. This incident became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” Several years later there is now a Hollywood version of this story from a pedigree of A listers – Denzel Washington being directed by the great Robert Zemeckis. It has all the makings of an automatic great film. What the heck happened?
First question is, why does the black Captain Sullenberger have to be a drunk? Why can’t this story be an uplifting one? There are so many different angles this could have taken instead we are forced to spend two hours with a character Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) that doesn’t have any redeeming qualities.
Almost every female character in this movie is treated pretty horribly. The opening 5 – 10 minutes features a gratuitous shot of a woman walking around an apartment Nude (after just having sex with Whip). Then we are introduced to Nicole (Kelly Reilly) a messed up drug addict who seems to have no point. Then there’s an unnamed Flight Attendant who, for no reason, is walking around when the plane is going down. The only positive female characters are the head FAA Investigator and the god fearing veteran head Flight Attendant.
One reason movies about alcoholism doesn’t work is the central character are usually people you don’t want to spend 10 minutes with that alone two hours and the story never ends well. It reminds me of the Afroman Song, “Because I Got High.” Every illogical thing that screenwriter John Gatins had in the script can be chalked up to “Because I Got High.”
Whip is the only one who could have possibly landed that plane the way he did, “Because He Got High.” One of the flight attendants was randomly walking around the plane after everyone was already strapped in, “Because She Was High?” The FAA wanted to crucify a man after they proved his innocence, why? “Because He Was High.” John Goodman as Whip’s pusher added a bit of comedy to this otherwise dour movie, but why was he there? “Because He Got High.” There was one out of the blue moment where Whip visits his ex-wife, yep you guessed it, “Because He Was High.” Nicole moved in with Whip a man she didn’t know “Because She Used to be High.”
All of the performances in this movie were top notch. Denzel and Reilly both do a great job with what they are given. But really, how hard is it to play an unlikable drunk? Don Cheadle doesn’t do much as Whip’s exasperated union attorney.
Flight would have been a better movie if the entire thing wasn’t so one note. The crash sequence in the beginning and the set-up are great. But it seemed like the entire budget of the movie was blown on that big scale set piece. After this the movie spends a lot of time with just Denzel in a Hospital and in small enclosed room.
This is a man who just saved over 100 people in a miracle landing, it would have been nice if the movie focused on that aspect of his celebrity and not so much on him being drunk and alone. The movie almost never drags, but it still felt like a chore to sit through.
Final Grade D