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Film: Flight
Sometimes heroism is messy.
"Nobody could've landed that plane like I did."
Captain William "Whip" Whitaker

A 2012 live-action film directed and co-produced by Robert Zemeckis. Flight features an ensemble cast including Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, Kelly Reilly, and John Goodman.

The story revolves around Captain William "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a pilot who pulls off a miraculous crash landing after his commercial airliner plunges out of the sky due to a catastrophic mechanical failure. Hailed as a hero in the press, trouble arises behind the scenes due to Whitaker being both drunk and high on cocaine during the flight, facts which could result in serious prison time and even manslaughter charges. Further complicating matters for both him and his legal defenders is Whitaker's losing battle with alcoholism.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Whitaker, Nicole, and Katerina Marquez.
  • Amoral Attorney: Hugh Lang, of the Punch Clock Villain variety. He shows a little professional pride in quashing Whitaker's blood toxicology test (showing both cocaine and large amounts of alcohol in his system), but otherwise the whole case is simply a job for him. He even backtracks after casually stating to his employer that the two dead flight attendants "don't matter" and explains how he was talking in the sense of the airline not being vulnerable to lawsuits from their families. Notably for an amoral attorney, he openly shows disgust for his client, Captain Whitaker.
  • Anti-Hero: Whip.
  • Arc Words: "Who are you?"
  • Badass Boast: "Nobody could've landed that plane like I did." And it's true.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Averted. Although the more intense Christian believers (like Evans and his wife) may come across as eccentric at first, they all show genuine courage in the face of life-changing disaster.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Whip confesses he was intoxicated during the flight and is sent to jail, but in doing so he is freed of his addictions and guilt, permitting him to reconcile with his friends and family.
  • The Captain: Whitaker averts the archetype in many ways, but there's no doubt who the man in charge on that plane was and who got it on the ground in more less one piece. The movie juxtaposes his absolute calm and mastery of the aircraft with the absolute lack of any control in his personal life.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Flip a plane upside down to arrest a nosedive? Sure. And the crazy part is, this is very much Truth in Television.
  • Dinky Drivers: An unusual full-sized version of this when the plane rolls - while Whitaker is forced to keep both hands on the control yoke to keep the plane steady, he has the co-pilot control the speed brakes and landing gear, and one of the stewardesses work the throttles.
  • Drugs Are Bad
  • Drunken Master: Deconstructed. Whip can pull off a maneuver to save his plane that no other pilot can do while drunk and high, but his personal life suffers severely and once the authorities find out about his addiction, his flight career is over.
  • Functional Addict: Whitaker and Katerina
  • Going Cold Turkey: Subverted.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: After the crash, Katerina's body is only visible below the neck, with the splash of blood hinting at what happened to the head.
  • Heel-Faith Turn: Implied strongly in Whitaker's case during the epilogue, although it appears to be of a God Before Dogma type.
  • Heroes Want Redheads
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When the plane inverts, Katerina unbuckles her restraints to help lift a child who fell down to the ceiling-turned-floor back into his seat. Unfortunately, she's unable to secure herself again before the crash and is pile-drivered into the cabin floor on impact.
  • Hookers and Blow: Whip's general behavior before the accident. Note, Katerina isn't a prostitute, but the promiscuity is still there.
  • Impairment Shot: Whip when taken out of the plane and again when waking up in the hospital.
  • Improbable Piloting Skills / Ace Pilot: To drive the point, the airline had eleven other pilots attempt to save the plane as Whitaker did in simulations. All failed.
  • Its Not My Fault: Whip insists through the majority of the movie, that it's all the defected plane's fault for the crash and the death of some of the passengers and crew.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Denzel Washington in the opening scene. Notable because it is utterly averted, at length, by Nadine Velazquez in the same scene.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Whitaker's eventual breakdown during the hearing, which begins with "God help me."
  • Nailed To The Wagon: The night before the NTSB public hearing, his layer and union rep check Whitaker into a hotel room whose mini-bar has been stripped of alcohol. Too bad that the interior door to the next room over was accidentally left unlocked.
  • Naked on Arrival: Katerina. Extra points for opening the film strutting around a hotel room completely nude. Technically Whitaker is this too, but we see a lot less of him than her.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: One TV ad for the movie sold it as a suspense/thriller, with hints of government conspiracy ("it's a lie, Whip"), while the movie itself establishes Whitaker's drinking and drug habits from the start.
  • Off The Wagon: Whitaker, repeatedly. Until it finally sticks in the epilogue. Nicole gets back on the wagon after her overdose in the opening scenes and fights to stay there for the rest of the film.
  • Only Sane Man: It's almost comical watching Whip remain utterly calm and collected whilst everyone else freaks out when the plane goes into a nosedive toward a seemingly certain crash landing.
    • Truth in Television as many pilots have failed to save the plane/passengers because they panicked. As a result, they couldn't think clearly enough to perform the tasks needed to save the plane. However, pilots that have remained calm and collected throughout the situation were able to act rationally, and save most (if not all) of the passengers. The plane however is usually written off for... obvious reasons.
  • Oscar Bait
  • Product Placement: Subverted, while Whitaker drinks many brands of alcoholic beverage, each only appears for single scenes and none were paid placements (for obvious reasons). At least one complained.
  • R-Rated Opening: Full frontal female nudity in the first two minutes.
  • The Scapegoat: Katerina becomes one for Whitaker's defenders, as a way of pinning the blame for the two used vodka bottles in the airplane's trash. Whitaker initially balks at scapegoating a dead woman, especially one he was both romantically involved with and who died while rescuing a child, but eventually agrees to go along with the plan. When asked under oath, he denies drinking the vodka bottles. At first.
  • Shown Their Work: The physics of Whitaker's fatal flight are fairly well done, though some Artistic License - Physics was taken to amp up the drama. With his elevators jammed nose-down, vertical flight controls broken, he did pretty much the ONLY thing that would have had a prayer of keeping that plane in the air a short time - inverting the plane, turning nose-down into nose-up. The stuff that should fail in an inverted jumbo jet - like the gravity-assisted oil pumps - indeed fail, causing the engines to overheat and catch fire. Why did the plane not explode on impact? He dumped almost all the fuel and ran the remaining fuel out the burning engines.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Kelly Reilly's character, Nicole Maggen, is minimally featured in the film's advertisements yet plays a major role. John Goodman is prominent but only appears in three short scenes.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The accident was apparently inspired by the 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which also was the result of a broken jackscrew that pinned the elevators down. At one point, the plane went inverted, with the pilots trying to use the inversion to stop the dive - it even worked for a very short time. Unfortunately, the real life control damage was too severe, and the plane crashed into the ocean. There were no survivors.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: A flight attendant quite understandably vomits during the crash sequence.

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