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The film

  • Anvilicious: Alcohol is bad. Don't drink and drive (or fly a plane in this case), and by getting right with God, you can get right with the rest of your life.
  • Designated Hero: Subverted, and then played straight with Whip. At first it seems like he shouldn't be punished for what happened to the plane, given that he managed to save all but six people. Whip even vows to stop drinking after the crash. But then he goes Off the Wagon, to the point where everyone (even Nicole) tells him drinking is ruining his life and you want him to go to prison. And he does, after finally confessing that he's an alcoholic and subsequently Taking A Level In Kindness.
    • Even Denzel Washington himself said shortly after the film's release that the storytelling is too nice to him.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: The opening scene with Denzel Washington snorting coke with a nude and very attractive flight stewardess, then walking out of his hotel room in full flight uniform to Feeling Alright by Joe Cocker doesn't really help the anti-drug message of the movie.
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  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Harling Mays is only in about three scenes (as Whip's friend, enabler, and drug dealer), but boy does he steal the show. "Sympathy for the Devil" plays every time he makes an appearance.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: It's totally okay for airlines to scapegoat an alcoholic, drug-addled pilot (or a drunk, drug-addled flight attendant) to divert public scrutiny from faulty equipment on one of their planes.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: The plane landing is a real knockout sequence which can make the film subsequently turning into an Anvilicious anti-drug PSA quite a letdown.
  • Narm: "PRAISE Jesus."
  • Nightmare Fuel: The main theme of the film — substance abuse by airline pilots — is scarily Truth in Television; the number of alcoholic pilots and pilots which fly inebriated is staggeringly high. At the turn of the millennium, British Airways introduced breathalyzer tests after management found out that a majority of their pilots had at one point or another piloted their aircraft while under the effects of alcohol — and that a very large number of them were functional alcoholics. It's the only airline that went public with this problem, but all airlines have to deal with it. It's a public secret in the industry that a lot of airline pilots tend to deal with the pressure of being responsible for that many lives through alcohol and drugs.
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  • One-Scene Wonder: The cancer patient from Utah that Whitaker and Nicole meet in the hospital stairwell, played by James Badge Dale.
  • Squick: The sound of the unconscious flight attendant's ankle breaking as it's caught in the overhead compartment while the plane goes upside down. It makes one passenger puke (or that could've just been from the whole experience, but either way, it was totally enough to make you react).
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The movie ends in a prison yard, with the sound of a commercial jet flying low overhead.
    • The large amount of Christian symbology sprinkled throughout the movie — the plane even clips the steeple off a church during its crash landing, and the congregation is the first on the scene of the crash.
  • Win Back the Crowd: Was one for Robert Zemeckis to show he could still direct compelling live-action, after his experiments with motion-capture had been getting increasingly poorly received.
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The comic

  • Tear Jerker: All over the place, such as in "Cellmates" and "Premium Cargo."
    • "Polaris" (Vol.3, Pg. 182) GOOD GOD POLARIS.
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