Flight, directed by Robert Zemeckis, is in the long tradition of American movies where we root for the hero to get on the right track. At least one of those is guaranteed each year. I'm refering to the types of piuctures where an audience gets its fair share of heavy drama within a "serious" subject matter, and yet the notion that a relief will come in the end alway somehow lingers in the air. On answering the question how pulpable that notion is, often depends the impression you will be left with. Like all of the solid movies in that tradition, Flight has certain side qualties to get you through all of the familiarity.
In this case, you begin to get drawn into the main character's issues through an adrenalin packed first half an hour, because Robert Zemeckis is a director who knows what buttons to push with his audience. Indeed, those scenes are quite something. From the beginnig, you are reminded that the person you are seeing is no angel, but somehow you sympathise with him the whole time. After all, he has a problem! And most importantly, there is a famous, award winning actor, giving The Academy no choice but to nominate him for the most prestigious of awards.
He is off course Denzel Washington, getting his share of booze, coke and sleeples, sex filled night, before heading to fly his commercial jet in the morning. Washington's acting shows us with ease that flying under the influence is not something this capitain is doing for the first time. After speeding through some threatening clouds, safe landing is expected in about 40 minutes. Then, some more serious problems appear. We learn the proper technical names for them latter. What's important for us is that they are not caused by any human on the plane, including the capitain. What's also important is that his brave manuvers saved the lives of almost every person on board. That still doesn't change the fact he was intoxicated. The picture continues with an accent on his personal demons more than public battle.
The main questin here is as it follows: how long will I keep on lying and pretending I can handle my demons (which are not a problem by the way), on my own, if I realize I can get away with it every single time, and the reason I know it is beacause I've been doing it for as long as I can remember? Zemekis direction makes this the dilema of the viewer rather than the character. He remains in the state of deep denial, while soaking every glimpse of reality with another round. It is us who are forced with the mentioned question, as we follow him making one hypocritical choice after another.
And yet, the same viewer has that question taken from him and answered in the last minutes of the piece. And what is even worst: he knows that moment is comming and he knows the nature of the answer. When the finale comes, we realize we have been aware of it the whole time. What remains is a picture which lost all the rights to be called a character study (and that's what most people praise about it) when it decided to abandon its main character for the sake of standard, mechanicaly uplifting movie conclusion.
The most interesting scene: the day after the accident capitain sneeks from his room into a hallway to have a smoke. There, he meets Nicole, who will later become his roommate and more. Soon, a cancer patient who's counting his last days joins them, also for a fag. The scene continues with capitain quietly observing the conversation of two people who speak soberly of how doomed they are. That was the only time I could sense the desire to break the monotonous pacing.
In the end I have to mention an extremely unispiring use of music. Let's sidestep the fact what songs he chose to play. Evaluating them would be a case of nitpicking. But the way Zemeckis uses Under the Bridge and Ain't no Sunshine in particular, makes for an unpleasent double effect. Take a look at what happens in the scenes in which those two numbers play. Than note the meaning and words the songs. Without the question, you get a creative low point of the film.