Flight ***½/4 – a movie review by James Berardinelli

January 31, 2013 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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Flight is about addiction. In particular, it’s about the long spiral that comes between the period when a person begins imbibing too much and when he acknowledges that he no longer has control and needs help.

This is valid dramatic material, but it’s not the most light and life-affirming way to spend two hours. Flight isn’t about addiction and recovery. It’s about addiction, period. It shows how an otherwise decent person will do terrible things to get a drink. It illustrates the power of compulsion. And it displays the collateral damage that results from an alcoholic spiral.

By the time the movie starts, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) has already lost much in his life, including his wife, who has divorced him, and his teenage son, who hates his guts. His best friend appears to be his drug dealer, Harling Mays (John Goodman). His girlfriend, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), is a fellow addict with an equally colorful history of drug and alcohol abuse. They’re talking about getting married. As the film progresses, Whip torpedoes a promising relationship with recovering abuser Nicole (Kelly Reilly), puts himself in danger of lifelong incarceration, and betrays friends and colleagues. He tries to quit on his own, with predictable results, and utters the mantra of every drinker: “I drink by choice. I can stop whenever I want.” He walks out of an AA meeting. It’s all very predictable; this story will be familiar to millions of viewers from their own lives.

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