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Flight Reviews

movie review flight

Led by Denzel Washington's top-notch performance in Flight, Robert Zemeckis' return to live action was worth the wait.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Dec 28, 2022

movie review flight

Washington delivers one of his most complex and intricate performances.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Sep 21, 2022

movie review flight

Zemekis rounds up a potent film about a freefalling alcoholic with a few existential themes such as salvation. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Aug 10, 2022

movie review flight

Flight isn't an easy sit. It doesn't offer up comforting answers to the many questions it raises or deal in exaggerated platitudes an audience might find simplistically comforting.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Apr 5, 2022

Denzel brought it in this one and so did most of the other actors. It's a really good movie.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Sep 30, 2021

movie review flight

Denzel gives a wild performance in this film that is further enhanced by the supporting work of Don Cheadle, John Goodman and Bruce Greenwood. Could have done without the subplot with the love interest but it doesn't ruin the film.

In Flight, we sit and watch a series of timeless truisms (at best) ... And, as a result, somewhere in the middle of the movie, it all grows a bit tedious.

Full Review | Feb 12, 2021

Flight proves, in a bad way, that believable characters are essential for all good movies.

Full Review | Jan 14, 2021

movie review flight

Washington is so good that he nearly overwhelms the film with a performance that soars far higher than the film itself.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.0/4.0 | Sep 7, 2020

movie review flight

Denzel Washington's mesmerizing, heartbreaking performance carries the entire piece.

Full Review | Original Score: B+ | Jul 29, 2020

movie review flight

What keeps "Flight" from devolving into a full-fledged Lifetime territory are a strong beginning and Denzel Washington's performance.

Full Review | Original Score: B- | Jul 18, 2020

movie review flight

In 'Flight', Denzel Washington takes off very high with what would be one of the most complex performances in his entire career. [Full review in Spanish]

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Jun 25, 2020

movie review flight

Zemeckis crash lands his movie with a shoddy romantic subplot and an ending shoehorned in so American audiences won't walk away bitching about the film being a downer.

Full Review | Original Score: 2.6/5 | Nov 13, 2019

Some might say Flight peaks very early. Those folks would be absolutely right. But what a peak it is. Whatever you do, do not show up late. The opening half-hour is truly stunning.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Nov 1, 2019

movie review flight

sluggish exploration of alcoholism which is as dull as listening to the pub bore

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jul 25, 2019

movie review flight

Even amidst the depths of personal despair, Zemeckis maintains a light touch, interjecting moments of humor that keep the film entertaining and not as ponderous as it could have been.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | Jun 8, 2019

Flight makes its points, but it never capitalizes on what might make it unique.

Full Review | Original Score: B- | Jan 30, 2019

However, if you feel you can with stand a nosedive shot from the cockpit of a commercial airliner, this happens to be a gripping and brilliantly acted film.

Full Review | Original Score: 7/10 | Nov 7, 2018

movie review flight

Flight is an engaging film with an opening that is worth the price of admission on its own.

Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Nov 1, 2018

movie review flight

Performance and plane crash aside, in a climate of fewer and fewer quality mainstream movies, Flight looks like a winner simply by not being terrible.

Full Review | Aug 21, 2018


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Movie Review

Life Takes Nose Dive, and Settles Into an Abyss

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By Manohla Dargis

  • Nov. 1, 2012

There is a single image in “Flight” of a miniature bottle of vodka that’s more nerve-racking than almost anything in the thrillers released this year. Shot in close-up with a room blurred in the background, the bottle looks so very big for something so small, like a totem of some mystical deity. It represents a million earlier drinks downed in a forlorn, existential frenzy, but it also resonates with a foreboding that the director Robert Zemeckis sustains for several unsettling seconds. What gives the image such tension, an almost unbearable throb of suspense, is that you know that right outside the frame is a man who is just dying for that drink. And you’re dying a little along with him.

The man going down, down, down is Whip Whitaker. Played by a titanic Denzel Washington, he’s a veteran commercial pilot whose greatest vocation should be his flying but, for this and that reason, has become his drinking. Whip doesn’t drink to excess and quietly fade, he stumbles, shouts, flails, blacks out. Mr. Zemeckis, directing his best movie since “ Cast Away ” (2000), about a different kind of disaster, makes you see that Whip is a beautiful indulger, as does the erotically hyped-up Mr. Washington, with his switchblade strut and aviator shades. As crucially, they also show you the ugly, mean, angrily unrepentant drunk, the one whose sunglasses hide bloodshot eyes and who, when he passes out on the floor, needs someone to tilt his head so he doesn’t choke on his own vomit.

The story, by the screenwriter John Gatins , turns on a crash that takes place soon after the movie opens. During a hop from Orlando, Fla., to Atlanta in a bad storm, a catastrophic event occurs. Whip manages to land the plane, but after saving others, begins losing himself. His unraveling brings on mood swings, rock oldies and a genre sampler, with the movie shifting from thriller to romance, family melodrama, legal drama and bitterly delivered inspirational tract. The calamity stirs up a mystery — what did Whip do, and was he sober when he did it? — feeding the inquiry and his relationships, including with a drug addict (the lyrically melancholic Kelly Reilly); his son (a fine Justin Martin); a friend (a blustery John Goodman); and a lawyer (Don Cheadle, doing a lot with little).

Even more than the plane crash in “Cast Away” (about a survivor, played by Tom Hanks, marooned on an unpopulated island), the accident in “Flight” is freakishly real; it’s one of those big-screen nightmares that will inspire fear-of-flying moviegoers to run home and Google car rental deals and Greyhound schedules. It’s a showstopper, with thrashing inverted bodies amid sickening screams and engine noises. The coordinated chaos makes a sharp contrast with the movie’s equally pivotal low-key opener, which introduces Whip as he groggily wakes in a hotel room, swigs some booze and leers at the naked woman, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), bent over next to him. It’s initially amusing to see Mr. Washington, who excels at square-jaw decency, getting down and dirty.

Mr. Zemeckis sets this scene efficiently, using his restless cameras, the pinpoint editing and seemingly nonchalant performances to home in on details that will register more meaningfully later, like the hunger with which Whip looks at Katerina and the anger edging his voice as he talks to his ex-wife on the phone. Nothing in the scene registers as especially significant until, amid the chatter and subtly choreographed bodies and cameras, you learn that Whip is a pilot scheduled to fly that same morning. This bombshell doesn’t fully explode, though, until he leans over a line of coke and, with his head swooping straight at us — and the camera racing away from him just as fast — snorts it, punctuating the hit with an ecstatic shake of his head, the whites of his eyes shining.

movie review flight

He’s high as a kite, and you may be too, lifted by the contact high that great filmmaking gives you. Mr. Zemeckis is far from a reliable filmmaker. What he has are good pop-culture instincts and, at least until he became infatuated with motion-capture technology, a gift for harnessing technological innovations with stories that can turn into enlivening cinema, as he did in movies like “ Who Framed Roger Rabbit ” and segments of the “Back to the Future” trilogy. His infatuation with motion capture, by contrast, has produced a handful of dreary, animated experiments like“ The Polar Express .” To watch Mr. Zemeckis working fluidly in consort with Mr. Washington’s ferocious performance is to regret this director’s last, technologically determined decade.

Mr. Zemeckis is in very fine form in “Flight” and when he sends a camera whooshing down the aisle of the failing plane, the controlled movement both conveys the contained frenzy of the scene and visually echoes the chill racing along your spine. Here he achieves more than virtuosic display. By something more, I don’t mean the movie’s subject, which is, at its broadest, a tail-spinning alcoholic. Superficially, “Flight” is the sort of award-season entry that earns plaudits simply because its subjects are sanctified as important, serious. There’s seriousness in “Flight,” but not self-seriousness. And what distinguishes it is the balance of its parts and how its floating, racing cameras complement the nimble performances, rocking emotions and ups and downs of the story and music alike.

Although he and Mr. Washington bring you into the movie fast, Mr. Zemeckis seems almost to blow it right at the start, when he begins abruptly cutting between Whip and a willowy, seemingly unrelated redhead. She’s soon introduced as the drug addict, Nicole, who will become important to Whip, yet in her twitchy establishing scenes of buying and shooting dope, she feels like a miscalculation. Mr. Zemeckis’s penchant for matchy-matchy musical selections is similarly distracting, as with his use of the Cowboy Junkies’ version of the Lou Reed song “Sweet Jane,” when Nicole injects heroin so strong that it’s called the Taliban. Mr. Zemeckis may want to suggest that the song — its lyrics include “heavenly wine and roses/seem to whisper to me/when you smile” — is playing in her head or ours when she slides the needle in, but it’s a crude stroke.

Mainstream habits die hard, and there are other instances when Mr. Zemeckis dilutes his movie’s power, notably with broad comedy and predictable sermonizing. “Flight” is, of course, about survival, and not only the type promised by the somewhat misleading advertising, which focuses on the more shocking (and cinematic) nose-diving calamity instead of the bottle-tipping one. To that end, the story hits many familiar recovery beats, partly because transformation is the only way out when a star plays an addict in an American mainstream movie. Our national culture of resurrection has as great a stranglehold on movies as Hollywood narrative conventions do. (That partly explains the limited popular appeal of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Master,” in which deliverance remains insistently out of reach.)

It’s no surprise that “Flight” has salvation in mind. The shock is how deep Mr. Zemeckis and Mr. Washington journey into the abyss and how long they stay there. It can be tough for stars to play such unrepentantly compromised characters, as Mr. Washington does brilliantly here. Most charm up their villains, thinning the venality with charisma and winks at the camera; in “Training Day,” as a seductively corrupt cop, Mr. Washington’s magnetism made a mockery of the story’s moral posturing. There’s no such falsity in “Flight.” The inevitable redemption doesn’t erase what happened or ease the pain, and the performance remains astonishingly true to Whip’s harrowing aloneness and its cost. Once again, you can’t take your eyes off Mr. Washington, but this time you watch him with agony rather than just admiration.

“Flight” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). The movie includes a sustained scene of a cataclysmic plane crash, as well as excessive drinking, drug use and the usual adult language.

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Flight: new york film festival review.

Denzel Washington stars in the Robert Zemeckis drama about an airline pilot who saves dozens of lives but faces prison because of drugs in his system.

By Todd McCarthy

Todd McCarthy

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Film Review: Denzel Washington's 'Flight'

Denzel Washington stars in director Robert Zemeckis’ "Flight," which receives a gala screening Oct. 18 in Abu Dhabi.

After 12 years spent mucking about in the motion capture playpen, Robert Zemeckis parachutes back to where he belongs — in big-time, big-star, live-action filmmaking — with Flight . A gritty, full-bodied character study about a man whose most exceptional deed may, ironically, have resulted from his most flagrant flaw, this absorbing drama provides Denzel Washington with one of his meatiest, most complex roles, and he flies with it. World premiering as the closing night attraction at the 50th New York Film Festival, the Paramount release will be warmly welcomed by audiences in search of thoughtful, powerful adult fare upon its Nov. 2 opening.

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Onscreen for nearly the entire running time, Washington has found one of the best parts of his career in Whip Whitaker, a middle-aged pilot for a regional Southern airline who knows his stuff and can still get away with behaving half his age. In the film’s raw opening scene, he’s lying in bed in Orlando at 7 a.m. after an all-night booze, drugs and sex marathon with a sexy flight attendant. With a little help from some white powder, he reassures her they will make their 9 o’clock flight for Atlanta.

The Bottom Line Denzel Washington excels as a pilot whose heroics hide a very dark side.

PHOTOS: Fall Movie Preview 2012: Major New Releases From Spielberg, Jackson, Tarantino, the Wachowskis, Burton and More 

The gripping 20-minute interlude that follows has in every way been brilliantly orchestrated by Zemeckis and will mesmerize and terrify audiences in a manner that will make the film widely talked about, a must-see for many and perhaps a must-avoid for a few. The 102 passengers strap in for what could be a bumpy flight; the weather looks awful. Rain is pelting down and the sky is dark, but it’s all in a day’s work for Whip, who settles into the cockpit and greets a new co-pilot ( Brian Geraghty ), while also sneaking two bottles’ worth of on-board vodka into his orange juice.

With his night’s companion Katerina ( Nadine Velazquez ) working the passenger compartment, Whit zooms up into the clouds, shaking up the passengers and scaring the co-pilot as he rams at top speed toward a pocket of clear sky. Having achieved momentary calm, Whit actually falls asleep at the controls, but not for long; the jet loses its hydraulics and suddenly plunges into an uncontrolled descent, its engines on fire. After lowering the landing gear and dumping fuel, Whip freaks everyone out and creates total chaos onboard by inverting the plane, manually forcing it to fly upside-down to achieve some stability on the way down before righting the ship at the last minute to attempt an emergency landing in a field.

PHOTOS: Hollywood’s 10 Highest-Grossing Actors 

This breath-shortening sequence is eye-poppingly realistic, with cutting Eisenstein would have admired, right down to the exquisite details of Jehovah’s witnesses scrambling to get out of the way on the ground as the plane’s wing clips the steeple of their rural church. Miraculously, the plane lands more or less intact, although six people die. For his part, Whip is hospitalized with minor injuries. His daring and ingenuity having saved most of the passengers from certain death, he becomes an immediate national hero.

But this is not a role Whip is keen to embrace. Depressed to learn that Katerina was among those killed, he’s visited by old flying buddy and now pilot’s union rep Charlie Anderson ( Bruce Greenwood ), as well as by his Lebowski-world drug dealer Harling Mays ( John Goodman ), whom he instructs to keep the vodka away. At the same time, Whip meets red-headed Nicole ( Kelly Reilly ), an addict hospitalized after an o.d., with whom he develops a certain affinity.

Anxious to avoid the lurking media, Whip slips away to his family farm to hide out. The property belonged to his grandfather; his father’s Cessna, in which Whip learned to fly, is still in the barn and the cabinets are full of booze, which he methodically pours out. If he could stay here forever, unmolested and unnoticed, you suspect he would. But a tempest of trouble awaits him in the real world, as he learns what he had to already know: Toxicological tests have revealed the booze and coke in his system at the time of the crash, which could result in serious prison time.

VIDEO: Denzel Washington’s ‘Flight’ Trailer Hits 

From this point on, the original screenplay by John Gatins ( Coach Carter, Dreamer, Real Steel ) closely charts the ins and outs and ups and downs of Whip’s addiction, a struggle he shares part-time with Nicole. Unlike him, she has nothing to show for her life, as well as no prospects unless she shapes up once and for all. When Whip learns what’s in store for him legally, he hits the bottle again just as Nicole goes on the wagon, which doesn’t stop them from having a brief liaison. Her AA sessions are not for him.

Whip also resists the help of attorney Hugh Lang ( Don Cheadle ), a stiffly humorless man who’s obviously good at his job, as he paves the way for his client to get off if he behaves himself. That, then, becomes the major question as he approaches a big public hearing before the chief inquisitor ( Melissa Leo ), along with whether Whip can cut through his layers of self-protection and denial to finally confront his devils and the truth about himself.

The close scrutiny of Whip’s internal currents cuts two ways, on one hand investing the drama with a deeply explored and complex central character, while on the other weighing it down a bit too much with familiar addiction issues for which the possible solutions are ultimately limited and clear-cut. The script commendably advances the notion that Whip had the cojones to make his bold move to save the plane because he was high but then perhaps prolongs the search for exactly how he’ll have to pay the price. At 139 minutes, the film takes a bit longer than necessary to do what it needs to do.

VIDEO: THR’s Scott Feinberg and Todd McCarthy Chat About the New York Film Festival

But Washington keeps it alive and real at all times as a man who, a failed marriage and an estranged son aside, would seem to have had things his own way most of his life and has never been forced to take a clear-eyed look at himself. The actor hits notes that are tricky and nuanced and that he’s never played before, contributing to a large, layered performance that defines the film.

Reilly (Sherlock Holmes), Greenwood, Goodman and Cheadle are all solid in functional supporting roles. As a live-action director, Zemeckis hasn’t lost a step during his long layoff; even though most of the settings are prosaic and even unphotogenic — hotel and hospital rooms, downscale dwellings, conference rooms — he and cinematographer Don Burgess deliver bold, well conceived images that flatter the actors. The exceptional and seamless visual effects for the traumatic flight sequence make that experience linger and reverberate throughout the entire film, just as it does for the characters who lived through it.

Venue: New York Film Festival (closing night) Opens: November 2 (Paramount) Production: Image Movers, Parkes + MacDonald Prods Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Brian Geraghty, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Melissa Leo Director: Robert Zemeckis Screenwriter: John Gatins Producers: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke Executive producer: Cherylanne Martin Director of photography: Don Burgess Production designer: Nelson Coates Costume designer: Louise Frogley Editor: Jeremiah O’Driscoll Music: Alan Silvestri R rating, 139 minutes

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Movie Review: 'Flight'

Kenneth Turan

Movie critic Kenneth Turan reviews Flight , starring Denzel Washington. Turan says Washington plays an intriguing — and morally ambivalent — hero.


And let's hear a review, nex,t of the latest movie starring Denzel Washington. Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has been watching "Flight."

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Whip Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, is introduced lying face down on a hotel room bed; after what has clearly been a night of debauchery, substance abuse, and very little sleep. So it's dismaying to discover that Whitaker is an airline pilot, scheduled to take the controls in a raging thunderstorm that very morning.

But even drugged out, Whitaker can still fly like the Red Baron. When his aircraft inexplicably plummets into an uncontrolled dive and seems headed for unmitigated disaster, Whitaker saves the day.


DENZEL WASHINGTON: (as pilot Whip Whitaker) We're going to roll it, OK?

BRIAN GERAGHTY: (as co-pilot Ken Evans) What do you mean, roll it?

WASHINGTON: (as Whip Whitaker) Gotta do something to stop this dive. Here we go. I've got control.

TURAN: Not every single passenger, as it turns out, survives these heroics. And as a defense attorney - played by Don Cheadle - tells the pilot, the question is whether his bravery will be overshadowed by his formidable blood alcohol count.

DON CHEADLE: (as Hugh Lang) This toxicology report states that you were drunk. And if it is proven that your intoxication was the cause of the death of the four passengers, now we're going to look at four counts of manslaughter. That could be life in prison.

TURAN: Washington, as always, creates a complex character who is both wary and worried; a man who not only flies airplanes, but is also in flight from his own life. But the story that surrounds him is not as subtle or involving, for though "Flight" could have concerned itself with how to reconcile heroic actions with fallible human qualities, it heads in a more formulaic direction. Can Whip Whitaker stop drinking long enough to avoid becoming his own worst enemy?

None of "Flight's" other characters hold us the way Whitaker does, though fine acting helps bring them alive. Don Cheadle is appropriately spit-and-polished as that attorney; and John Goodman is outrageous - as only John Goodman can be - playing Whitaker's personal Dr. Feelgood.

JOHN GOODMAN: (as Harling Mays) What the hell kind of meds they giving you? Aprazolan - that's generic Xanax. Hydrocodone, that's generic Vicodin - probably Canadian. Where's the dihydromorphinal? Is this amateur hour? Get that doctor in here. You just saved a hundred people.

WASHINGTON: (as Whip Whitaker) Harling. You bring my smokes?

TURAN: When all else fails, "Flight" turns to Washington. His ability to convey the agony of a soul in torment, never lets us down even though the film that surrounds him never rises to his heights.


INSKEEP: Ken Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION, and for the Los Angeles Times.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Flight - 2012

Flight – review

R obert Zemeckis, a protege of Steven Spielberg, is a gifted writer-director who has turned his hand to almost anything from Beatlemania to animation, and has pursued certain themes over the course of some 30 years without achieving the status of auteur. One recurrent subject has been ordinary people suddenly transported into challenging circumstances, most famously the teenager taken back in time in the Back to the Future trilogy. During this past decade, he has been preoccupied with legendary tales retold using motion-capture animation – The Polar Express , Beowulf , A Christmas Carol . Perhaps reacting to this, he has embraced a realistic contemporary story, part thriller, part moral drama.

Scripted by John Gatins, author of several movies of no particular distinction, Flight begins with a deliberately shocking scene, a recreation of something out of Airplane! . An alarm clock goes off in the motel room of handsome "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington). A naked stewardess gets up, goes to the lavatory and returns to begin dressing while Whip wakes up, lights a cigarette, swigs some beer, snorts a line of coke and shares a joke with the girl. He then puts on his civil pilot's uniform, hides behind opaque shades and sets out for the day. Settling down in the cockpit, he orders a black coffee with plenty of sugar and an aspirin, and prepares for a routine 50-minute flight from Orlando, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia. His young co-pilot and regular stewardess are no more than slightly alarmed by his ragged appearance. Most of us in the audience thank God we're not among the passengers.

Zemeckis's last picture before his long stretch with animation was Cast Away , in which FedEx official Tom Hanks endured one of cinema's most spectacular aerial calamities before finding himself marooned on a Pacific desert island. The film reprises this incident as a little turbulence following a rainstorm that sends Whip's plane into freefall. The tail flaps fail to function and only the pilot's coolness and ingenuity enable him to take the craft through a 360-degree spin that allows him to crash the plane in an open field with only six fatalities from a flight manifest of 106 passengers.

This bold, economic piece of film-making, worth the price of admission in itself, is accomplished in half an hour, leaving the film-makers nearly two hours to tease out its implications. Whip Whitaker is an antihero who has put trusting passengers' lives at risk by his criminally irresponsible conduct. On the other hand he's a national hero who has saved them from certain death by his brilliant handling of a complex situation that, we're told, would have defeated most experienced colleagues the world over. Should he then be regarded as a public hero and a generously blind eye be turned upon his derelictions? Or should he face the consequences of his conduct, lose his licence and face a long sentence in jail?

Denzel Washington began his career by playing heroic figures, most famously the Christ-like victim of apartheid, Steve Biko, in Cry Freedom . His roles became increasingly human and moderately flawed until these last few years, when he's played a bent LA policeman in Training Day , a New York public transport official suspected of accepting bribes in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 , and a flamboyant crook in American Gangster . In Flight , he has his most complex, least sympathetic role to date, and he gives a towering performance, dominating the film as he struggles to confront his life, his conscience and his various responsibilities.

He's divorced, estranged from his teenage son, an arrogant man, convinced of his own superiority and incapable of confronting his weaknesses, his offences and his addiction to drugs and alcohol. Recovering from his injuries in hospital, Whip forms a friendship with a good-looking photographer (Kelly Reilly in a conventional, underwritten role), a recovering alcoholic, who takes him to an AA meeting where he remains in denial and walks out. His problem, however, as the film makes clear, is that he lives in an amoral universe where everything and everybody conspires to obscure the moral, ethical and social issues.

The airline pilots' union representative (Bruce Greenwood) is a former naval colleague who wants to protect his old friend and preserve the reputation of the profession. A criminal lawyer (Don Cheadle) is brought in from Chicago, and he perceives his duty towards his client as discrediting the tests that establish the damning alcohol and drug tests. He also takes on the task of getting "act of God" considered as one of the causes of the disaster. The head of the conglomerate that owns the airline is anxious that this accident doesn't affect his other interests, and wants the blame to be attributed to the plane's manufacturers. Whip's colourful drug dealer (John Goodman) just wants to keep his nose clean and get paid for his work.

Ahead lies the ultimate test when the inquiry instituted by the National Transport Safety Board convenes to put Whip on trial. Ironically the music in the hotel lift taking him to face the investigators is a bland version of With a Little Help From My Friends. Zemeckis generally sustains the tension, though the movie is overlong and the full implications of the drama are never fully confronted. But Washington is always there, a substantial antihero with a genuinely tragic dimension. He's a self-destructive individual, faced with a final choice that might involve his own annihilation. The film's title is perhaps intended to make a mythical connection with Icarus, the hubristic hero who flew too close to the sun. Whip, we infer, was pushed in that direction by a father and grandfather also involved in flying.

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movie review flight

Excellent but mature drama about alcoholic airline pilot.

Flight Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

The story shows the difficult struggle of dealing

It's difficult to call Whip a true role model,

The first part of the movie includes a harrowing,

The movie opens with the main character in a hotel

Language includes many uses of "f--k" an

Many brand names of beer and hard liquor are shown

The main character is an alcoholic but denies it t

Parents need to know that Flight is an excellent, albeit mature, drama about an alcoholic airline pilot and the investigation surrounding a plane crash he was involved in. The crash sequence itself is realistic and harrowing, with injuries and wounds. Drinking and drugs are also big issues, as the main…

Positive Messages

The story shows the difficult struggle of dealing with alcoholism -- the main character battles it and reaches a level of sobriety, learning to accept others' help and return their love. His actions and decisions also emphasize the importance of telling the truth (rather than lying to protect yourself) and accepting the consequences.

Positive Role Models

It's difficult to call Whip a true role model, as his struggle falls on the negative side so many times. Throughout most of the movie, he pushes others away, behaves badly, and very often slips back into drinking again. But he earns viewers' sympathy, and when the crucial moment comes, he chooses what's right over his own selfishness.

Violence & Scariness

The first part of the movie includes a harrowing, realistic plane crash sequence in which many people are injured (on-screen) and some killed (offscreen). A stewardess risks her life to save a boy. Characters are seen in the hospital. A secondary character overdoses on heroin and nearly dies; she also goes to the hospital. The main character has many drunken binges that sometimes result in shouting or falling and hurting himself (some blood is shown). There's also some arguing and confrontation.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

The movie opens with the main character in a hotel bed with a naked woman. She walks, naked, around the room, for long moments before the scene ends. The main character also appears to be naked but is mostly covered by the sheets. Later, the main character flirts with and kisses another woman.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

Language includes many uses of "f--k" and "s--t," plus "d--k," "ass," "damn," "hell," "crap," "goddamn," etc.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Products & Purchases

Many brand names of beer and hard liquor are shown, including Heineken, Bushmills, Grey Goose, Corona, Stolichnaya, Jim Beam, and more. Some of the brands have requested that they be removed from the film.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The main character is an alcoholic but denies it throughout most of the film. He has many drinking binges, downing everything from beer to vodka, which usually results in shouting, passing out, and/or hurting himself. A secondary character is a drug addict; she's shown in an early scene shooting heroin and overdosing. After this incident, she stays clean throughout the rest of the movie. In one crucial scene, the main character's friend makes him a special "wake up" cocktail consisting of cocaine and tobacco. Whip also smokes frequently.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Flight is an excellent, albeit mature, drama about an alcoholic airline pilot and the investigation surrounding a plane crash he was involved in. The crash sequence itself is realistic and harrowing, with injuries and wounds. Drinking and drugs are also big issues, as the main character is an alcoholic who frequently binges (sometimes resulting in arguing and/or injuries, some with blood), and a secondary character is a drug addict. There's also a nude scene early in the movie, when the main character wakes up in a hotel room with a girlfriend, and language is strong, with uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Director Robert Zemeckis also made the ultra-popular Forrest Gump , but Flight is more intense in some ways and less age appropriate for younger teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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  • Parents say (15)
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Based on 15 parent reviews

Full frontal gratuitous female nudity from the first second!

What's the story.

Faced with a malfunctioning plane, commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker ( Denzel Washington ) pulls off a spectacular crash landing that saves nearly all the lives on board. Unfortunately, during the subsequent investigation, it becomes apparent that he was drunk while flying. Worse, he abuses alcohol regularly. In the hospital, Whip meets recovering drug addict Nicole ( Kelly Reilly ) and decides to help her out. In the days leading up to a hearing that could cost Whip his job, he tries to stop drinking, but with all the pressure, he finds the urge too strong. Even with all the people in his life trying to help, it all comes down to Whip, who must decide for himself which path to take.

Is It Any Good?

After too many years of gimmick- and special effects-based movies, with FLIGHT, director Robert Zemeckis once again finds the perfect balance between characters and spectacle. (He achieved this in his best films, Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit .) This is also easily the most mature movie of his career. A slightly less talented director would have focused on the heavy issue of alcoholism, but Zemeckis instead uses the suspense of the impending hearing, as well as rich characters and performances ( John Goodman is a particular standout). The balance makes for a far more effective and appealing film.

Likewise, special effects are restricted to the first act only and used to support the characters and themes, rather than the other way around. Moreover, Flight bravely includes many unconventional moments, ranging from powerful, passionate speeches by minor characters to amazing moments with no dialogue at all. Flight is purely a Hollywood film, but it's Hollywood at its very best.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about how Flight depicts drinking . Why does Whip drink so much? What are the results of his drinking? What consequences does he face? Do they seem realistic?

Why doesn't Whip accept any help from anyone? How can you help a loved one who might be an alcoholic/addict?

How did the violent plane crash sequence affect you? Was it too over-the-top, or did it seem to fit the story? How does a scene like that compare to something in a big-budget action movie? Which has more impact? Why?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : November 2, 2012
  • On DVD or streaming : February 5, 2013
  • Cast : Denzel Washington , Don Cheadle , Kelly Reilly
  • Director : Robert Zemeckis
  • Inclusion Information : Black actors, Female actors
  • Studio : Paramount Pictures
  • Genre : Drama
  • Run time : 138 minutes
  • MPAA rating : R
  • MPAA explanation : drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence
  • Last updated : October 21, 2023

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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Summary Flight tells the redemption story of Whip, a commercial airline pilot who pulls off a heroic feat of flying in a damaged plane, saving 98 lives on a flight carrying 106 people. While the world begs to embrace him as a true American Hero, the everyman struggles with this label as he is forced to hold up to the scrutiny of an investigation ... Read More

Directed By : Robert Zemeckis

Written By : John Gatins

Where to Watch

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By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

First lesson learned from Flight : Never take Denzel Washington for granted. After making his bones with Glory , Malcolm X and The Hurricane , and winning a Best Actor Oscar for 2001’s Training Day , Washington settled into a groove of action films ( Safe House , Unstoppable ). With the exception of 2007’s incisive American Gangster , they relied more on his star power than his acting skills. Flight reminds us of what Washington can do when a role hits him with a challenge that would floor a lesser actor. He’s a ball of fire, and his detailed, depth-charged, bruisingly true performance will be talked about for years.

Washington, 57, plays Capt. Whip Whitaker, a commercial pilot with a jones for hooch and blow, on the job as well as off. His marriage is a casualty, along with his relationship with his only son. Can Whip stay up all night doing drinks, drugs and sex with a hottie flight attendant (Nadine Velazquez) and still make his 9 a.m. flight to Atlanta? He can. Can he sneak vodka on board in an orange juice container and still fly in a blinding rainstorm? He can.

But do you want him to? That’s the big question that Washington, screenwriter John Gatins and director Robert Zemeckis keep working like a wound. After Zemeckis spent the past 12 years experimenting with performance-capture animation ( Polar Express , yikes!), it’s good to have him back in the live-action arena he deserted after Cast Away . Flight is Zemeckis at his most emotionally open and thematically provocative.

It also comes on like gangbusters. In the white-knuckle opener, Zemeckis nails us to our seats as a hung­over Whip dozes, much to the horror of God-fearing co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty). The suspense tightens when the jet’s hydraulics fail and Whip – roused from his stupor by a line of coke – must literally turn the plane upside down to make an emergency landing. The raw panic is palpable. But what astonishes is Whip’s unflappable cool, born of a lifetime on the job and, just maybe, Dutch courage. The sequence is a marvel of technical wizardry. But Zemeckis never lets FX crush the story’s human scale. Six lives were lost on this flight. But 96 more were saved because Whip was flying high.

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That is the ethical tightrope that Flight walks with keen intelligence. Whip is cheered as a hero, since 10 other pilots failed to duplicate his feat in simulations. Ironically, that fact enables him to drink more. He’s invincible! Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering junkie, shares his bed and tries to steer him toward rehab. But a shot at going cold turkey leads to the inevitable relapse.

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Whip is a pawn. The airline and the pilots union want a cover-up. A hotshot lawyer (Don Cheadle) is hired to spin reports of Whip’s high-octane blood-alcohol level at the crash site. At a public hearing, the head prosecutor (a superb Melissa Leo, her honeyed voice a lethal weapon) is determined to make someone accountable for those six lives lost. How can Whip get through an interrogation, especially the morning after a killer bender? The same way he landed the jet, with a little help from his dealer friend Harling (John Goodman, vividly funny and scary as a force of Dr. Feelgood nature).

At the hearing, Zemeckis has only to train his sights on Washington as he captures a soul in free fall. You might bitch that Flight levels off after its shocking, soaring start. But you’d be missing the point of an exceptional entertainment that Zemeckis shades into something quietly devastating – not an addiction drama, but the deeper spectacle of a man facing the truth about himself. God isn’t Whip’s co-pilot. His jet even clipped off the steeple of a church on its way down. Whip is a man alone. And all you need to know about him is mirrored in Washington’s eyes. Zemeckis couldn’t invent a digital effect to match an image that hypnotic, that haunting.

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Flight (II) (2021)

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"Last Minute Redemption"

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What You Need To Know:

(C, BB, H, Ab, LLL, VV, SS, NNN, AAA, DD, MM) Light Christian, ultimately redemptive worldview with strong moral attitude against substance abuse that includes a positive appeal to God at the climactic moment of truth, some other positive references to God, faith, church, and Jesus (often in the background rather than the foreground, however), plus a pro-recovery message, but mixed with some humanist attitudes against faith and against God along with an Anti-Christian scene where two conservative Christian characters are portrayed as over-zealous, but the movie’s subtext suggests they might have been partially right after all, mitigated by heavy scenes featuring alcohol abuse, alcoholism, cocaine use, and sexual relationships; 82 obscenities, 10 strong profanities, five light exclamatory profanities; strong violence includes plane passengers intensely buffeted by storm, plane goes into steep dive when tail doesn’t work properly, man flies plane upside down to stabilize it, plane’s wing clips church steeple, plane has rough landing in a field, people on endangered plane fall down, flight attendants thrown about, flight attendant gets foot caught, flight attendant helps child get back into seat, flight attendant’s body shown crushed somehow, but nothing very graphic shown; highly charged sexual scene in the beginning as couple wakes up in bed and woman parades around totally nude for a pretty long time, plus implied fornication and brief passionate kissing; sometimes obscured full frontal female nudity and extensive upper and rear female nudity in one lengthy scene, plus upper and rear male nudity; extreme alcohol abuse and drunkenness as plot involves an alcoholic airline pilot with a severe alcohol problem, but the plot question asks whether the man will realize his problem, confront it and take care of it; smoking and cocaine use to counter the effects of alcohol abuse and appear somewhat sober, woman shoots up heroin but later decides to go into rehab, and drug dealer sometimes comes across as an iconoclastic hero; and, lying, deceit, people try to hide pilot’s alcohol problem, alcoholic man in denial rejects AA recovery options for his own substance abuse problem, and alcoholic man has tense relationship with adult son who lives in another state with man’s ex-wife.

More Detail:

FLIGHT is a harrowing drama about an airline pilot with a serious substance abuse problem. The pilot saves nearly everyone on board when he crash lands a disabled passenger plane, but the investigation threatens to reveal that the pilot was also high at the time. Ultimately, FLIGHT is a story of hope and redemption, but the journey is an extremely frank portrayal of substance abuse and excess.

The movie stars Denzel Washington as airline pilot Whip Whitaker. It opens with Whip and his lover, a flight attendant named Trina, getting out of bed after a night of debauchery. Trina is totally naked as Whip drinks some more alcohol, then tries to regain his sobriety with a sniff or two of cocaine. Cut to Whip striding confidently down the hotel hallway as he heads for work.

Whip and Trina are scheduled to take a routine jaunt from Miami to Atlanta. Before taking off, Whip secretly sneaks a couple mini-shots of vodka into his orange juice. Then, while taking off, the plane encounters terrible turbulence from a rainstorm. Whip decides to fly the plane at a steep angle to take it above the storm. By doing this, he gets the plane out of trouble, much to the great relief of everyone on board.

The stress and night of debauchery finally gets to Whip, and he takes a little snooze while the plane is entering the Atlanta airspace. Suddenly, however, the copilot has trouble with the tail, and the plane takes a sudden steep dive. Everyone goes into panic mode, except for Whip. He decides the only way to stabilize the plane is to fly it upside down. After a harrowing ten minutes, Whip manages to crash land the plane in an open field after it tears the steeple off a country church.

The media hails Whip as a hero. However, the government’s investigation into the crash landing threatens to reveal Whip’s substance abuse problem. A lawyer thinks he can get Whip’s alcohol level pushed out of the investigation on a technicality, but what about the two tiny bottles of vodka that turned up empty on the plane?

As Whip fights for his career, he meets a kindred spirit, a recovering heroin addict named Nicole. Nicole may be just what Whip needs, but his continuing alcoholism threatens to derail everything.

FLIGHT is masterfully directed and acted. The story’s troubled protagonist is clearly skeptical when it comes to faith, but his character is often forced to confront the God question and similar faith issues. Despite this, it isn’t until the very end that he really begins to face such questions. Until he does, the movie presents viewers with many scenes of sinful excess, including strong foul language. The nudity and substance abuse in the first scene, and the substance abuse and foul language in the rest of the movie, are clearly excessive. They warrant extreme caution. FLIGHT is a rough movie to watch, despite the profound ending.

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Real Pilots Laugh At ‘Flight’

The men and women who fly commercial planes may have given up long ago on realistic portrayals of their profession in Hollywood, but ‘Flight’ takes the absurdity to a whole new level, writes Patrick Smith.

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith

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Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

movie review flight

First things first: this isn’t a movie review. I’ll leave that to the professional critics. I’m not Anthony Lane, and any attempts I make at dissecting Flight on its deeper cinematic merits are bound to fall short. Anyway, this isn’t a movie about airplanes or even about pilots, really. (There’s a distinct double meaning to the title, which will make sense to you once you see it.)

[ SPOILER ALERT : This article reviews certain plot lines and details.]

I’m more than happy, however, to judge the film on its technical aspects: its cockpit scenes and its portrayal of airline pilots. And what I saw gets a firm thumbs-down.

I went into the theater with an open mind—really, I did. I long ago accepted that when it comes to planes and pilots, Hollywood never gets it right, and I was not expecting anything different this time.

There’s a point, however, where you just can’t let things go. There is nothing funny about Flight, but should you hear howls of laughter coming from the back of the theater, chances are there’s a pilot in the audience. Laughter, if not tears, is the only fair response to much of what the movie shows.

But before getting to the details, first there’s the matter of Denzel Washington’s character, “Whip” Whitaker.

Whip is a hotshot, sauced-up captain whose substance-abuse habit crash-lands him, quite literally, into a whole heap of trouble. Our anti-Sully is a guy who flies on the heels of a coke binge and pours his own cocktails in the galley.

Whip is a cartoon, but the problem is that too many people watching this movie will take him seriously.

The idea that such a reckless pilot might actually exist out there is hardwired into the imagination of the traveling public and unfortunately reinforced by rare but high-profile reports of commercial pilots who’ve been caught while under the influence.

Any number of pilots have indeed battled substance-abuse problems—as have professionals in every line of work—and over the years a much smaller number have been arrested after failing a Breathalyzer or blood-alcohol test. Incidents like these have nurtured a certain apocryphal stereotype: the pilot as hard-drinking renegade, with crow’s-feet flanking his eyes and a whisky-tempered drawl, a flask tucked into his luggage. When the image is so quick to form, it’s tempting to jump to conclusions: for every pilot who’s caught, there must be a dozen others out there getting away with it. Right?

Well, quite frankly, no. Intoxication isn’t something pilots play fast and loose with. Why would we, with our careers on the line? Violators are subject to immediate revocation of their pilot certificates, not to mention potential prison time. I will remind you that pilots are subject to random drug and alcohol testing, and I should also note that simply because a pilot is battling a substance-abuse problem, that does not mean he is flying while drunk or high—and he certainly isn’t mixing drinks in the galley. That is a huge and critical distinction. Passengers worry about all sorts of things, rational and otherwise, but trust me on this one: there’s no Whip Whitaker in the cockpit.

Why not? The rest of us wouldn’t tolerate such a dangerous colleague in our midst, for one thing. Neither would any pilot take the skies with somebody he or she knew to be under the influence. At one point in Flight, Whitaker’s copilot admits from his post-crash hospital bed to having known that his captain was drunk and high even before they’d taken off. Where’s a bucket of tomatoes when you need one?

In other words, a real-life Whitaker wouldn’t survive two minutes at an airline, and all commercial pilots—including, if not especially, those who’ve dealt with drug or alcohol addiction—should feel slandered by his ugly caricature.

The Federal Aviation Administration blood-alcohol limit for airline pilots is 0.04 percent, and we are banned from consuming alcohol within eight hours of reporting for duty. We must also comply with our employers’ in-house policies, which are usually stricter. Drug and alcohol tests are unannounced and common. Air carriers and unions like the Air Line Pilots Association have been very successful with proactive counseling programs that encourage pilots to seek treatment.

Not long ago, I flew with a colleague who participated in the HIMS program, an intervention and treatment system put together several years ago by ALPA and the FAA. HIMS has treated more than 4,000 pilots, with only 10 percent to 12 percent of participants suffering relapse. It has kept alcohol out of the cockpit and has helped prevent the issue from being driven underground, where it’s more likely to be a safety problem. I asked that colleague if, prior to going into HIMS, he’d ever knowingly flown under the influence. His answer was a firm and very believable no.

But back to the movie ...

The workplace dynamic between Whip Whitaker and his copilot, Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty), is another problem. In the cockpit, Whitaker is flip, arrogant, and condescending; Evans is meek and at times frightened and clueless. This is not how actual pilots behave and interact. Further, such a botched depiction only reinforces one of flying’s most irritating myths: the idea of the copilot as a sort of apprentice pilot who is on hand merely to help out and assist the captain.

Copilots are not trainees. I ought to know: I am one. We perform just as many takeoffs and landings as captains do, and we are fully certified to operate the aircraft in all phases of flight. In fact, due to the peculiarities of the seniority bidding that determines almost everything in a pilot’s professional life, it’s not terribly uncommon for the copilot to be older and more experienced than the captain sitting next to him.

The cockpit scenes otherwise range from borderline realistic to preposterous. The checklists, the procedural callouts, the chatter with air-traffic control, etc., are occasionally rendered correctly, if a bit over the top. But mostly they’re peculiar, and at times they are outright silly.

The early-on segment where Whitaker and Evans are battling through a storm is particularly egregious. I cannot begin to describe how wrong it is, from the absurd idea that you would actually increase to maximum flying speed to race between storm cells to Whitaker’s impetuous descent, which for some inexplicable reason he believes will help lead them safely through the weather—all without permission from air-traffic control. Are you kidding ?

Minutes later we see the jet, its pitch controls jammed, nosediving unstoppably toward the ground. Whip saves the day by turning the plane upside down, then rolling it right side up again in time for a semisuccessful crash landing in a field. The aerobatic magic here is something that escapes me, but what do I know? I’m just an airline pilot. The sequence is clearly based loosely on the crash of Alaska Airlines 261 in January 2000, when a jammed stabilizer jackscrew forced the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 into an unrecoverable dive. (Whitaker’s plane is a fictionalized version of the same—an MD-90, it looks like to me, with some digitalized winglets attached.) The crew of Alaska Air 261 briefly attempted to regain control by flying inverted. Whatever aerobatic and aerodynamic possibilities exist here aren’t anything I can vouch for. If they do exist, surely Flight has overextended them.

I can let that one go, actually, though I loved it when Whitaker, seconds away from impact, actually radios air-traffic control with the news: “We are in a dive!”

Thanks, Whip. I can only imagine a perplexed controller staring haplessly into a radar screen, not really sure what to say or do, wondering if perhaps he ought to have called in sick that day. In the real world, pilots in the throes of such an emergency wouldn’t be all that worried about what ATC has to say, and such a radio call would be about the last thing on their minds. For most of the film I was too mortified to actually laugh out loud, but that one got a cackle from me.

Presumably, the filmmakers worked with one or more consultants, who must have at least attempted to encourage accuracy. Wikipedia tells us that the late Lyle Shelton, a former stunt pilot, worked as a technical adviser. Perhaps Shelton could have told us more about that upside-down business, but he wasn’t an airline pilot, and it’s the cockpit details—the dramatization of airline SOP—where things fall short. I almost hate to say it, but even Airport ’75 —one of the quintessential air-disaster movies, in which Charlton Heston is helicoptered through a hole in a crippled 747—did it better.

I’ll be told, perhaps, that I need to relax, and that the movie ought be judged beyond its technical shortcomings. Normally I would agree, and for the average lay viewer it will hardly matter at all. I’m happy to allow a little artistic license. We should expect it, and some light fudging of the facts can be necessary, to a degree, for a film like this to work. Honestly, I’m not that much of a fussbudget. The trouble with Flight is that the filmmakers seem to have hardly tried.

And why not? Would it really have been that difficult? Would it really have diminished the picture’s storyline or its gravity? I think not.

I’m not sure who gets the bigger screw job here: viewers, who are being lied to, but who may or may not care; airline pilots, whose profession is unrealistically portrayed; or nervous flyers, whose fears this movie will only compound.

I’m not telling you not to see it or not to enjoy it. My complaints notwithstanding, it’s a compelling story that is pretty well told. But remember to bring that proverbial grain of salt.

As for stories about pilots with substance-abuse problems, I prefer the real-life tale of the former Northwest captain Lyle Prouse, whom I wrote about in 2004 .

Prouse was one of three Northwest Airlines pilots arrested one morning in Minnesota in 1990. All three had spent the previous evening’s layover at a bar in Fargo, N.D., downing as many as 19 rum and Cokes. Tests showed their blood-alcohol levels far beyond the legal limit.

Prouse, an alcoholic whose parents had died of the disease, became a poster pilot for punishment and redemption. He was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison. Then, in a remarkable and improbable sequence of events, he was able to return to the cockpit on his 60th birthday and retire as a 747 captain.

Once out of jail, Prouse was forced to requalify for every one of his FAA licenses and ratings. Broke, he relied on a friend to lend him stick time in a single-engine trainer. Northwest’s then-CEO, John Dasburg, who himself had grown up in an alcoholic family, took a personal interest in Prouse’s struggle and lobbied publicly for his return.

You’ll see Prouse in interviews from time to time, and inevitably you’ll be struck by how forthrightly he takes responsibility, without resorting to the sobby self-flagellation of most public apologies. Always one is left, unexpectedly, to conclude that this convicted felon deserved his second chance.

Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast  here .


Is Flight Based on a True Story?

Is Flight Based on a True Story? Real Events, Facts & People

By sonikakamble

Flight is a 2012 film directed by Robert Zemeckis, and this gripping tale stars Hollywood legend Denzel Washington, who effortlessly portrays the heroic actions of a seasoned pilot during a troubled flight. All the intense sequences and realistic depictions in the film might make fans wonder if Flight is based on a true story . So, let’s delve deep into the real events, facts, and people that inspired the contents of this compelling movie.

Is Flight based on a true story?

No, Flight is a work of fiction that draws inspiration from some real-life incidents. As mentioned in an article in the Los Angeles Times , Flight uses some elements from the 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261. As per reports, a few lines were written verbatim from the CVR transcript, specifically, the conversation that happened through the overhead speakers, between pilots in the cockpit and passengers.

Flight’s real events and facts explained

Purportedly, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crashed due to a broken jackscrew, that came loose due to being ungreased and resulted in a fatal accident. Pilot Ted Thompson and First Officer Bill Tansky managed to invert the plane and fly it before it crashed.

Sources suggest that the two-engine T-tail jet airliner model in Flight belongs to the same model family as the plane from Alaska Airlines 261, which happens to be a variant of MD-80. They even had three decommissioned MD-80 series aircraft to showcase in the film, with an additional one in the same series for the scenes that were captured in the cockpit and cabin.

Apart from the plane’s model, the creators used a few other elements from this catastrophe. A few examples are the reason behind the accident, radio communication scenes, and inverting the plane by the end.

The real people behind Flight’s characters

The characters in Flight are completely fictional, and the protagonist, Whip Whitaker, was a creation of Gatins’ imagination after he had a conversation with an off-duty pilot. In the movie, the casualties were only a handful, but in Flight 261, there were no survivors.

Is Whip Whitaker a real person?

Whip Whitaker is a fictional character, and an invention of Gatin’s mind, who wanted to showcase that professionals who are supposed to be calm and collected for their tasks, can become turbulent due to personal struggles and high-stakes situations. In the movie, Whip’s character is designed to explore the moral and emotional complexities that come with aviation incidents.

Is Nicole a real person?

Nicole is a flight attendant and another fictional character who accompanies Whip’s journey to redemption. Her character is a narrative device that helps the viewers to traverse Whip’s dilemma while adding depth to the storyline. Her presence highlights the impact on passengers and gives the viewer a broader perspective of events that unfolded after the plane crash.

Is Hugh Lang a real person?

Hugh Lang is yet another fictional character who is essential to the plot. He is a comrade of Whip and contributes to the exploration of challenges faced by the aviation industry, both personal and professional. He provides moral support and advice to the protagonist, fulfilling his role as the loyal friend.

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movie review flight

Movie Reviews

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movie review flight

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How can a little girl simply disappear from an airplane at 37,000 feet? By asking this question and not cheating on the answer, "Flightplan" delivers a frightening thriller with an airtight plot. It's like a classic Locked Room Murder, in which the killer could not possibly enter or leave, but the victim is nevertheless dead. Such mysteries always have solutions, and so does "Flightplan," but not one you will easily anticipate. After the movie is over and you are on your way home, some questions may occur to you, but the film proceeds with implacable logic after establishing that the little girl does not seem to be on board.

The movie stars Jodie Foster in a story that bears similarities to her " Panic Room " (2002). In both films, a woman uses courage and intelligence to defend her child against enemies who hold all the cards. The problem she faces in "Flightplan" is more baffling: Who are her enemies? Why would they kidnap her daughter? How is it possible on an airplane?

For that matter, has it really happened? Foster plays Kyle Pratt, a jet propulsion engineer who has been employed in Germany on the design of the very airplane she is now using to cross the Atlantic. She is on a sad mission. Her husband, David, has died after falling -- she insists he fell and did not jump -- from a rooftop. The coffin is in the hold, and she is traveling with Julia ( Marlene Lawston ). She falls asleep, she wakes up, and Julia is gone.

Kyle methodically looks around the airplane, calm at first, then on the edge of panic. She tries to seem more rational than she feels, so the crew won't dismiss her as a madwoman. Certainly they're tempted, because the passenger list lacks Julia's name, the departure gate at Munich says she did not get on the plane, and her boarding pass and backpack are nowhere to be found. The captain is Sean Bean , very effective as a man who knows what his job is and how to do it. Peter Sarsgaard plays the in-flight air marshal, under the captain's orders. They receive a message from Munich informing them that Julia was killed along with her father. Obviously, the traumatized mother is fantasizing

And that's all you'll find out from me. There is no one else I want to mention, no other developments I want to discuss, no other questions I want to raise. If someone tries to tell you anything else about "Flightplan," walk away.

The movie's excellence comes from Foster's performance as a resourceful and brave woman; from Bean, Sarsgaard and the members of the cabin crew, all with varying degrees of doubt; from the screenplay by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray ; and from the direction by Robert Schwentke , a German whose first two films were not much seen in North America. This one will be.

I want to get back to the notion of the airtight plot. Often in thrillers we think of obvious questions that the characters should be asking, but do not, because then the problems would be solved and the movie would be over. In "Flightplan," Foster's character asks all the right questions, and plays the situation subtly and with cunning: She knows that once she crosses a line, she will no longer be able to help her daughter. There are times when she's ahead of the audience in her thinking, anticipating the next development, factoring it in.

As the situation develops, her response is flexible. Her tactics are improvised moment by moment, not out of some kind of frantic acting-out. Because she does what we would do, because she makes no obvious mistakes, because of the logic of everything the crew knows, she seems trapped. A passenger cannot disappear from an airplane, and Julia has disappeared, so either her mother is hallucinating, or something has happened that is apparently impossible.

Schwentke is limited, but not constrained, by the fact that most of his movie takes place on an airplane in mid-air. He uses every inch of the aircraft, and the plot depends on the mother's knowledge of its operation and construction. If she didn't know the plane better, really, than its pilots, her case would be hopeless. Even with her knowledge, she comes up against one bafflement after another. Should she doubt her sanity? Should we? We have, after all, seen Julia on the airplane. But for that matter, in two early scenes we saw, and she saw, her husband David, after he was dead. They spoke to one another. Didn't they?

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film credits.

Flightplan movie poster

Flightplan (2005)

Rated PG-13 for violence and some intense plot

Peter Sarsgaard as Gene Carson

Marlene Lawston as Julia Pratt

Shane Edelman as Mr. Loud

Matthew Bomer as Eric

Sean Bean as Captain Rich

Mary Gallagher as Mrs. Loud

Jodie Foster as Kyle Pratt

  • Peter A. Dowling

Directed by

  • Robert Schwentke

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Since they took the Bourne series away, Paul Greengrass is taking a plane to the bottom of the ocean

Greengrass is directing an adaptation of hit novel drowning: the rescue of flight 421.

Paul Greengrass

Last week, we heard that Universal was developing a new Jason Bourne movie , with All Quiet On The Western Front director Edward Berger and literally no one else—not even Matt Damon, Jason Bourne himself—attached yet. Now, in a move that is probably not the masterclass in high-level pouting that it kind of looks like, regular Bourne series director Paul Greengrass (he made three of the four Damon ones) has announced that he’s getting in an airplane and taking it straight to the bottom of the ocean, as far away from Universal and Jason Bourne as you can possibly get.

To be more accurate, Greengrass is actually going to direct an adaptation of T.J. Newman’s bestselling novel Drowning: The Rescue Of Flight 421 , which Warner Bros. won in a heated (and very pricey) bidding war with every other studio in Hollywood. That comes from Deadline , which notes that various publications and retailers have named Drowning one of the best books of the year.

The book, which pulls from Newman’s real-life experience as a flight attendant, is about an airplane (flight 421, presumably) that crashes into the ocean shortly after takeoff and sinks, trapping the handful of survivors in one sealed-off section. The survivors include an engineer and his preteen daughter, and if that all didn’t seem enough like a perfect setup for a movie already, Deadline adds that the engineer’s estranged wife is “part of the elite rescue team that races to save the passengers before their air runs out.” Thrilling!

The movie is probably going to pull more from Greengrass’ experience with stuff like Captain Phillips and United 93 than the Bourne movies, but who better to serve on an elite airplane rescue team than someone with secret CIA training and no memory of their past? Drop a Treadstone operative into the ocean and Flight 421 will be flying out of there in no time.

Wherever I Look

Wherever I Look

How I Learned to Fly (2023) – Movie Review/Summary

Posted: December 3, 2023 | Last updated: December 4, 2023

Film Summary

Daniel finds his life spiraling fast. His mother is gone, his father is too, and his 14-year-old little brother struggles with communication. Daniel can’t afford to pay the rent, make sure he and Eli eat, and pay the electric bill and gas. Something has to give, and for most of the movie, it is him having to give his time, energy, and what little money he has until you ask where is rock bottom for these two?

Note, they don’t live in a bubble, as there are people who are in their lives or come into their lives that try to help, but their appearances are either sporadic or held off until what feels like the end.

Other Noteworthy Information

  • This will be coming out on Starz once it ends its theatrical run.

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Daniel, the eldest of the two boys, works in a restaurant cleaning dishes, and since his mom and dad are no longer around, he uses what people leave on their plates to feed him and his brother. This is on top of trying to stay on top of his studies to get into a good college.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Confessional .”

With a struggle to communicate, trauma from his dad, and being bullied by kids, Eli’s life is by no means easy. His only solace is his older brother, and even he gets frustrated with Eli to the point of cursing at him sometimes.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ The Boy Next Door .”

Yaya is a first-generation American whose parents own a laundry mat and whom she had to fight against to not end up locked into just inheriting the family business.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 .”

Louis is Eli and Daniel’s next-door neighbor who tries to look out for them and gets Eli into working on cars.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ She Ball .”

Cliff is Eli and Daniel’s dad, who appears to be someone who has quite a temper, though he does have his good moments.

  • The actor is also known for their role in “ Vampires vs. The Bronx .”

Dorothee is Eli and Daniel’s mom, who works in a school doing custodial maintenance, though she dreams of becoming a teacher.

Collected Quote(s)

Where your thought goes, your energy flows

Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive)

Notable Performances or Moments

The sibling relationship.

Setting aside some of the negatives below, there is no denying a touching dynamic between Daniel and Eli. Often, stories like this seek out distractions through a generous guidance counselor, a sudden love interest, or any means to alleviate the struggle and suffering of its characters. “How I Learned To Fly” doesn’t believe in letting up like that.

Instead, it forces you to understand Eli and Daniel’s situation, especially since Daniel is maybe hovering around 18 and Eli is 14. So, the threat of separation is there; Eli is someone who struggles to communicate and reads as autistic, so him ending up with someone who could abuse him is a thought. Then, add in the abuse both experienced at the hands of their father Cliff? The trauma he added to their lives?

While Chavis has repeatedly proven his career will thrive far beyond “This Is Us,” Scribner gets to really step away from his role as Junior in the “-ish” universe and show he has the potential for staying power.

The Editing and Writing

“How I Learned To Fly” is not a movie that should be as long as it is. Whether it is the unnecessary artsy and cinematic moments of watching a dress get wet by sprinklers or moments when the camera focuses on Eli’s Gameboy, there are a lot of moments and scenes that feel meant strictly to add to the time length of this movie so it can be seen as a feature film and not a short.

I’d even add in, pacing and entertainment-wise, that this film also struggles. All you’d want to see, know, or understand is backloaded. Whether it is revealing what happened to Dorothee or Cliff, presenting a character who has some sort of energy to disrupt the downward progression of Eli and Daniel’s life, or just something that could be seen as a hook.

Don’t get me wrong, Chavis and Scribner give wonderful performances and deserve their flowers. The problem is, while great performers, neither have that Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” charisma, or the energy Teyana Taylor gave in “One Thousand and One” to drive this film through its darkest, traumatic, and aptly dry moments. They don’t yet have that lead actor oomph needed to be the driving force behind a drama like this (though I understand everyone has to start somewhere).

On The Fence

Silver linings that don’t become something more.

Two characters, Louis and Yaya, bring some sort of levity, help, or distraction from what feels like the constant pounding of one bad thing happening to Daniel and Eli after another. However, neither character gets to be part of their journey enough.

In the case of Louis, he is their next-door neighbor who tries to help when he can. The problem is, Daniel isn’t the type to actively seek or ask for help, so Louis’ presence is completely dependent on him taking initiative, thus leading to him showing up from time to time but not being able to do as much for the kids as they need.

As for Yaya, she is the type you’d expect in a movie like this. Note, as stated above, romantic relationships aren’t the focus of “How I Learned To Fly.” However, with her growing close to Eli and, assumingly, Daniel off-screen, she becomes the first sign that either of these two have friends or someone who they can or will seek out.

But, even though her screen time feels longer than Louis, since it isn’t as sporadic, sadly, she doesn’t come into play until the latter half of the movie, after the point you are checking your watch because all you’ve seen is a consistent flow of suffering which may drain you in a way to help you understand what the characters are going through, but it doesn’t make for an experience that will keep you engaged (unless you catch this in theaters).

Who Is This For?

Fans of any of the leads involved will likely enjoy their performances in “How I Learned To Fly,” but for those who have an aversion to Black trauma or poverty, this isn’t for you.

General Information

Content rating explanation.

  • Dialog: Cursing Throughout
  • Violence: There Are Scenes Where Eli Gets Bullied By Neighborhood Kids, blood, and gun violence
  • Sexual Content: Yaya does make comments that make it sound she is coming onto Eli (before she learns his age)
  • Miscellaneous: Smoking, drinking, and depiction of vomit


If you like this movie, we recommend:

  • One Thousand and One

Check out our movies page for our latest movie reviews and recommendations.

Discussion Items

Let us know your thoughts in the comments:

  • Would you like to see more diversity in time lengths for movies? Especially as they seem to only be expanding towards getting longer?

“How I Learned To Fly” is weighed down by focusing heavily on the struggles of its lead characters for too long before giving us a silver lining, levity, or some sign things are going to get better.

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Three men gather closely laying in the snow with concerned expressions in 'Society of the Snow.'

‘Society of the Snow’: Everything You Need to Know

On Oct. 13, 1972, a rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay, boarded Flight 571 to Santiago, Chile, for a match . But on their way through the snowy Andes — just short of their destination — the plane crashed deep in the barren mountains, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees below zero. Twelve people died on impact and several more were gravely injured. Only 29 lived to see a second day in the Andes. After multiple search-and-rescue planes combed the area, the search was called off and the passengers were presumed dead. After nearly two and a half months, 16 survivors were rescued. But what happened during those 72 days? 

From Gaudí and Goya award–winning director J.A. Bayona ( The Impossible , A Monster Calls ), Society of the Snow tells the near-impossible story of the Andes flight disaster. The film, Bayona’s first Spanish feature since 2007’s The Orphanage , is set to close out the 2023 Venice Film Festival . This tale is not for the faint of heart: For those not familiar (and who haven’t seen the 1993 film Alive , which also dramatizes the crash), it involves graphic depictions of the crash and what the victims had to do to keep from starving to death, including cannibalism. 

When will  Society of the Snow be released?

Society of Snow will play in select theaters in December before coming to Netflix in Jan. 4.

Where can I find the trailer for  Society of the Snow ?

Check it out at the top of this article. 

Who’s in the cast of Society of the Snow ?

Here are the actors who play the real-life rugby players: 

  • Enzo Vogrincic Roldán ( Yosi, the Regretful Spy ) as Numa Turcatti 
  • Matías Recalt ( Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez ) as Roberto Canessa
  • Agustín Pardella as Nando Parrado
  • Tomas Wolf as Gustavo Zerbino
  • Diego Vegezzi ( Toublanc ) as Marcelo Pérez
  • Esteban Kukuriczka ( Habitación Disponible ) as Adolfo “Fito” Strauch
  • Francisco Romero as Daniel Fernández Strauch
  • Rafael Federman ( The Sleepwalkers ) as Eduardo Strauch
  • Felipe González Otaño ( Young Hunter ) as Carlitos Páez
  • Agustín Della Corte as Antonio “Tintín” Vizintín
  • Valentino Alonso ( Once ) as Alfredo “Pancho” Delgado
  • Simón Hempe ( Intertwined ) as José Luis “Coche” Inciarte
  • Fernando Contigiani García ( Argentina, 1985 ) as Arturo Nogueira
  • Benjamín Segura as Rafael “el Vasco” Echavarren
  • Rocco Posca ( Bigli ) as Ramón “Moncho” Sabella

Promotional poster for the film ‘Society of the Snow’

What happens in  Society of the Snow ?

The film depicts the real-life events of the crash of Flight 571 — from the day Uruguay’s Old Christians Club rugby team left for a match in Santiago, Chile, to 72 days later when only 16 of them finally came home. It’s told primarily through rugby player Numa Turcatti’s point of view. 

Is  Society of the Snow  based on a book?

Yes, it’s an adaptation of the 2008 book La Sociedad de la Nieve ( Society of the Snow ) by author and journalist Pablo Vierci, who was a college classmate of the plane crash survivors. Vierci also co-wrote I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives with survivor Roberto Canessa. 

“I discovered the book while we were preparing The Impossible , and I immediately thought that I wanted to make it into a film,” Bayona told Netflix. “We put the project together over a period of more than 10 years, developing an approach to the story while working closely with Pablo Vierci.”

Is  Society of the Snow  based on a true story?

Yes, it’s based on the crash of Flight 571 and the survivors’ accounts of their harrowing days spent in the Andes Mountains. “The starting point for our work has always been the profound impact that the real event — as well as reading Pablo’s book — had on us,” Bayona said. “We had a feeling that this story had not been truly told.” In making the film, Bayona and his creative team talked extensively with the survivors and with the victims’ families. “It has been a privilege to be able to talk to them,” Bayona said. 

Where does  Society of the Snow take place?

The film takes place in Argentina, among the Andes Mountains — one of the largest and longest ranges in the world. 

Enzo Vogrincic as Numa Turcatti sits on a plane with a concerned expression in 'Society of the Snow.'

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Dunki Trailer: Shah Rukh Khan, Vicky Kaushal And Taapsee Pannu Promise An Endearing Journey

Dunki trailer out: the trailer showcases a rollercoaster of emotions—where dreams take flight, friendships blossom, and the magic unfolds..

By: ABP News Bureau | Updated at : 05 Dec 2023 11:08 AM (IST)

Dunki Trailer Out Shah Rukh Khan Taapsee Dunki Trailer Video Review Dunki Trailer: Shah Rukh Khan, Vicky Kaushal And Taapsee Pannu Promise An Endearing Journey

‘Dunki’ is produced by Rajkumar Hirani and Gauri Khan. ( Image Source : Screengrab from YT/Red Chillies Entertainment )

New Delhi: This December, ‘Dunki’ is all set to deliver a delightful blend of humour and heartfelt moments, creating lasting memories to cherish with your family and loved ones. The makers finally unveiled the trailer of ‘Dunki’ today, offering a peek into the endearing world of Rajkumar Hirani. The much-loved actor Shah Rukh Khan will be seen as a part of a fantastic ensemble cast featuring, Taapsee Pannu, Boman Irani, Vicky Kaushal , Vikram Kochhar, and Anil Grover.

The trailer of ‘Dunki’ opens with Shah Rukh Khan onboarding a train, setting the tone for the adventure that lies ahead. The video unit introduces the wonderfully whimsical characters starting with Hardy, played by SRK, who enters a picturesque village in Punjab and encounters a group of spirited friends – Manu, Sukhi, Buggu, and Balli, all sharing a common dream of travelling to London in pursuit of better opportunities and a better life for their loved ones back home.   Encapsulating all the myriad emotions in one frame, this heart-warming tale follows four friends on an extraordinary journey to foreign lands, filled with challenges and life-changing experiences.   Rajkumar Hirani, known for his exceptional storytelling, took fans on a whirlwind journey, starting with Dunki Drop 1 on SRK's birthday, followed by the melodious voice of Arijit Singh in Dunki Drop 2 titled ‘Lutt Putt Gaya’. Dunki Drop 3 further tugged at our heartstrings with Sonu Nigam's soul-stirring song, ‘Nikle The Kabhi Hum Ghar Se’, a poignant melody echoing the emotions of homecoming. The Dunki Drop 4, beautifully unfolds the layers of friendship and love, taking the audience on a thrilling ride through the Dunki route—the path these friends embark on, to reach their desired destination. As the trailer concludes with a glimpse of SRK in an older avatar, it leaves us yearning for more, eagerly anticipating the extraordinary journey that awaits.   Dunki is not just a film; it's an immersive experience, that promises to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of audiences worldwide. 

‘Dunki’ is produced by Rajkumar Hirani and Gauri Khan. Written by Abhijat Joshi, Rajkumar Hirani, and Kanika Dhillon, the film is slated to release worldwide on 21st December 2023.

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