Entertainment News: Flight the Movie Starring Denzel Washington

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Entertainment News: Flight the Movie Starring Denzel Washington 

Laura Leiva

Modern Tokyo Times


Denzel Washington is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in Flight. Director Robert Zemeckis delivers a dramatic plot with a talented supporting cast, which includes Melissa Leo, John Goodman and Don Cheadle. In addition to Washington’s Best Actor nomination, the film is also up for Best Original Screenplay at the 85th Academy Awards.

The film begins in October 2011, Captain ‘Whip’ Whitaker (Washington) is in a hotel room with flight attendant Katerina Marquez after a night of drinking, drug use and a lack of sleep. In order to break out of his stupor, Whip snorts a line of cocaine before he pilots a flight from Orlando to Atlanta. Inclement weather creates a turbulent, bumpy takeoff and Whitaker steers the flight into a break in the clouds for smooth sailing to the plane’s destination. He enlists his co-pilot, Ken, to fly the plane as he mixes small bottles of vodka with orange juice in the galley. After drinking his cocktail, Whitaker is taking a nap in the cockpit when the plane suddenly develops a catastrophic mechanical failure and goes into a nosedive.

Whitaker stays calm under pressure and inverts the plane to level it out and then crash lands into an empty field. Inverting the plane is nothing short of a miracle and saves most of the lives on board – two crewmembers died during the accident, including flight attendant Marquez. Whitaker is removed from the cockpit, only suffering a concussion and lacerations to the face. With only six total deaths on board, Whitaker is declared a hero and wakes up to national media attention for his handling of the plane, which would have been a complete loss of life had Whitaker not rolled the aircraft. While in the hospital, Whitaker meets Nicole, a woman who’s recovering from an overdose of heroin. Once he’s released from the hospital, Whitaker goes to his family farm to avoid the public attention.

Within the next few days, Whitaker receives a phone call to meet his friend Charlie, who’s head of the pilot’s union, and attorney Hugh Lang (Cheadle). Lang informs him the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) completed a toxicology screening on Whitaker while he was recovering in the hospital and his results showed he was intoxicated. The results of the toxicology screen likely means manslaughter charges and prison time, but Lang says he can get the toxicology report dismissed – Whitaker just needs to attend the NTSB hearing so they can determine the plane crash was caused by a mechanical failure.

Whitaker becomes even more of an alcoholic after the plane crash. In an attempt to stay sober in the days leading up to the hearing, he stays at Charlie’s house where there is no alcohol. The night before the hearing, Whitaker sees the adjoining hotel room door is open, leading him to drink much of the alcohol in the minibar. Lang and Charlie find him completely drunk the morning of the hearing and realize the only solution is to call Whitaker’s friend Harling (Goodman) to bring cocaine to bring him back up.

During the hearing led by Ellen Block (Leo), Whitaker is called a hero and it has been determined damaged equipment caused the crash. During the investigation, the empty vodka bottles were found in the trash can – even after Whitaker canceled drink service due to the turbulence. The NTSB’s findings showed flight attendant Marquez had alcohol in her system, but Whitaker refuses to let her memory become tainted in the process.  He confesses to drinking while flying and being under the influence during the hearing. He is sentenced to prison time, where he says he finally feels free of his addiction.

Flight is a thought-provoking film enhanced by the talent of the cast. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, the writer John Gatins explains the film was loosely based on the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 in 2000. Denzel Washington provides a refreshing, exceptional performance of a character with flaws and moral implications – a type of role for which he does not play frequently.



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