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The Flight

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The Flight is an American live-action and drama movie that was released in 2012. It features Denzel Washington, Melissa Leo, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, and Bruce Greenwood. Robert Zemeckis, who also doubled as a co-producer, directed it. This movie has won a number of accolades and honors due to its well-defined plot and directly addressed message.

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The movie revolves around the problems that are related to drug usage. The main character played by Denzel Washington is William ‘Whip’ Whitaker. He is an airline pilot and a substance abuser. He wakes up in his hotel room in Orlando with Katerina Márquez, a flight attendant played by Nadine Velazquez. Last night, they had a sexual intercourse accompanied by excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as little sleep. It is important to note that this happens before an air flight he is supposed to navigate. He uses cocaine to help him get stimulated and wake up before the flight to Atlanta. This makes him high and unstable. First, the plane encounters some problems while taking off. Whip’s copilot flies the airplane while he turns to alcohol for comfort. On the contrary, the alcohol makes him even more unstable.

The plane experiences some technical problems which jolts Whip awake. Since the copilot is unable to control the plane, Whip takes control allowing the plane to crash land. It was difficult for his copilot to navigate the plane alone considering that he might have developed fatigue from his previous fights. Excessive substance abuse and little sleep made Whip unsuitable for his job. This might have been a contributing factor to the catastrophe. If Whip had stayed sober before the flight, the disaster would have been avoided.

After crashing, Whip finds himself in a hospital in Atlanta where he is admitted with some injuries. Later he learns that Katerina is among those 12 who are pronounced dead, and his copilot is in a coma. He does not stop at this since he still tries to sneak a cigarette. After being discharged, Whip meets with a girl named Nicole. She is trying to recover from a heroin overdose. In the hospital, while Whip was unconscious, the medical practitioners had taken a toxicology screen, which revealed that the pilot had been under the influence of drugs while navigating the plane. This was potentially risky for him, since according to the US guidelines that govern air navigation, a pilot is not supposed to be intoxicated before the flight. This shows that apart from being irresponsible, substance abuse made Whip unethical and careless about matters concerning passengers’ lives.

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He starts an affair with Nicole and promises to stay away from drugs. However, he fails and continues to take drugs. This causes the end of their relationship. After being left alone, he visits his son and ex-wife. It is clear at this point that his previous marriage was ruined by his vices.

The media and police realize that he is hiding at his father’s farmhouse after the plane crash. They arrest him in preparation of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing, which will determine what the cause of the plane crash was. Whip’s condition is so terrible that he has to be guarded to ensure that he does not get drunk before the hearing. However, he manages to escape out of his room. The next morning, an official of the NTSB and his attorney find him drunk and passed out. They have to give him some cocaine so that he will be present at the court.

During the hearing, the NTSB investigations reveal that the plane crashed because of mechanical problems and acknowledge Whip for his effort of saving those people. They also mention the presence of two bottles of alcoholic drinks in the pilots’ cabin. Since it is only flight attendants and pilots who can access the cabin, the investigations focus on the flight attendants. They ask whether Whip had any knowledge of Katerina’s consumption of alcohol before the flight. This is because a toxicology examination established so. Initially, Whip’s attorney erased the toxicology report in the investigations. Not wanting to taint Katrina’s reputation, he owns up to his mistake and is sentenced for a minimum of five years in prison.

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This movie managed to communicate its message about dangers of overconsumption of alcohol and abuse of drugs. Drug abuse promotes unethical and illegal behavior in a person. In my opinion, Whip and his copilot could have done better to save lives of more passengers had he stayed sober while at work. He proves to be an incompetent pilot who gets drunk and sleeps on his job, overburdening his colleague. This movie also aims to communicate the effect of substance abuse on family. Whip failed his marriage. He is divorced and cannot see his son grow, since he is denied custody and only allowed to visit him. In prison, for the next five years, Whip will only see his son during visiting sessions. This will naturally bring a rift between them, disallowing cultivation of a good father-son relationship.

Not only does drug abuse affect Whip’s marriage, but it also affects his social interaction. He fails to sustain his relationship with Nicole. This is despite the promise he made to her that he would keep away from alcohol. The viewers have a lot to learn from this movie as it is illustrated by Whip’s last confession that he is happy to be free from drugs. He also shows pride in having a family. The appreciation of the message in this movie is well proven by nomination for two Academy Awards: Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay. 

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