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Flight by Robert Zemeckis

January 27, 2013

Flight by Robert Zemeckis contains many stories – all of them revolving around Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) – an airline pilot and a very good one too, we meet him on an ordinary working day flying from Orlando to Atlanta, there is a storm during the take off but Captain Whitaker manoeuvres the plane out of it, a few minutes later the plane goes into an uncontrolled dive, the steering is gone and the attempts to recover the control of the plane prove themselves useless – later we’ll learn the blame was on a jackscrew whose threads were completely gone, it should have already been replaced 1.200 flight hours before the incident occurred – Whitaker stays calm, he inverts the plane and arrests the descent, this bold manoeuvre avoids the plane crashing on populated areas, a forced landing on an open filed will conclude the Captain’s heroics: only six passenger lose their life, 96 are miraculously safe. During the investigation that will be made to ascertain the causes of the incident, ten pilots will be tested in a simulation of the tragic flight, all of them will crash the plane with no survivors. Who doesn’t want Whip Whitaker to be the pilot of the plane he is boarding tonight?

I have already stated Flight is many stories and the way I have summarized it is not the way Zemeckis wants to tell it: we have a bit of romance, then a family drama, even a bit of legal/political drama and at the start of the film is not clear where all this is going to land, but in the end it will be clear that the first scene of the film – you can see in the picture above Captain Whitaker two hours before the fateful flight, the cocaine he is going to use serves to limit the effects of his drunkenness or so they tell us – means Flight is not a film about an exceptionally gifted pilot but about an unrepentant alcoholic and the intervention of God to save him.

The Christian imagery makes constant irruptions during the film, there is a Baptism going on nearby the open field where Whitaker lands the airplane, then – picture above – he meets his co-pilot after the incident, Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) was aware of Whitaker’s condition during the flight, but he has told no one about it, he and his Christian zealot wife are forgiving, for them there is a project by God behind the crash, at the end of the film Whitaker too – sober and in jail – is grateful to God. The overall structure and the narrative devices used by Zemeckis to carry it on are so banal – just think of the string of coincidences leading to the meeting of Whitaker with Nicole (Kelly Reilly) – that most of the time during the film I didn’t knew if I was supposed to be crying or laughing; then the popular music choices are either banal or – using Sweet Jane, the Cowboy Junkies cover – vulgar and pointless: the film has an uninterrupted in-your-face attitude but what’s the point of it all? Captain Whitaker is a hell of a pilot, if I owned a private jet I would hire him instantly, but please bring me the head of the guy responsible for the missed replacement of the jackscrew!

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