Before I saw Flight, I read local Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy’s piece about the film and how unconvincing it was for him (and presumably other African American viewers) because of star Denzel Washington’s “fake kissing” in his “extramarital love life” with white women (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/in-flight-denzel-washington-white-women-and-turbulence/2012/11/04/74c50b12-26c6-11e2-9972-71bf64ea091c_story.html).
Spoiler alert: I’m not sure if Milloy objects most to the fact that the two relationships depicted in the film are presented as part of his depraved lifestyle or that they both figure, ultimately, into his redemption.
Maybe I should extend the spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen the film, plan to, and don’t want to know too much, come back to this post later.
You see, I like Flight better than any film by Robert Zemeckis in ages, better than most of them, in fact. And, I like it not only because is it well-crafted but also because the movie is traditional in a way that appeals to me – the story demands a serious and painful accountability before redemption and resolution.
The plot is conveyed in a limited way by the preview trailers. Denzel Washington plays a pilot who lands a plane that no one else could have managed with such limited loss of life, but he is under the influence at the time of the mechanical failure that necessitated the crash landing.
Okay, but the depth of his problems is much deeper than suggested in the previews, and part of the strength of the film is how Denzel Washington’s iconography keeps us pulling for him even when we know that we shouldn’t. Part of the emotional rollercoaster the film puts viewers on is internal as we wage that battle inside our heads between Washington, whom we like, and his character Whip Whitaker, who is not likable.
The resolution of Flight offers a chance for reconciliation between these competing responses that I find very satisfying.