Several critics, both professionals and Amazon reviewers, have complained that this film starts out as an airplane disaster but then becomes a morality tale about addiction and alcoholism.
I say so what, if it's done well--and it surely is. Denzel Washington has never been better. He's played a good guy / hero type in so many movies, it's rather shocking to see his dark side. We saw that in the 2001 film _Training Day_, in which he played a really crooked cop, and he pulled it off splendidly. _Flight_ was 11 years later, and he still has the juice. Except this time, his problem is alcoholism. And unfortunately, he's a commercial airline pilot.
After waking up with a nude flight attendant in an Orlando hotel room, Whip Whitaker (Washington) takes a hit from a joint, swigs the dregs of last night's beer, and snorts a line of cocaine. In the next scene, he's walking down the hall to his next flight, looking like a million bucks in his uniform.
The plane crash, which happens in the first 20 minutes, is hair-raising. Director Robert Zemeckis is no stranger to disaster scenes, having filmed a really scary one in the 2000 film _Cast Away_. But he's also no stranger to emotional morality tales. This is the man who directed _Forrest Gump_.
Once in the air, Washington miraculously lands a mechanically failing airliner with 102 passengers in a Georgia field (right next to a Baptist church, whose members assist in helping the survivors (Symbolism, anyone? And it will recur a few more times). He is still messed up from the night before, and he surreptitiously drinks three mini bottles of vodka during the flight.
All but six passengers survive. Whip is hailed as a Sully Sullenberger type hero. But questions remain about his sobriety, since the NTSB routinely draws blood from the flight crew. He was over the limit, which could make him criminally negligent.
Since Whip is being investigated, you would think he would stop drinking. But no....He keeps on keeping on, swilling liquor and beer every night until he passes out. In spite of a female friend who is recovering from her own addiction and tries to get him into AA, he can't stop himself. He's in the classic state of denial: "I drink because I choose to." We're appalled by him when he's drunk, but we also have hope for him because he's a great guy. The film puts us into the the classic dilemma of anyone who has ever loved an alcoholic.
There are a couple of minor issues: The film is a bit too long, and the John Goodman character, Whip's drug dealer, is hilarious but rather incongruous in a serious story. Nevertheless the finale at the NTSB hearing is unforgettable. No spoilers here, but the truth prevails.
You could watch this film multiple times, just to appreciate the nuances of Washington's acting. This is, without doubt, one of his top two or three performances.