Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Flight

Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews the new Robert Zemeckis airline drama Flight in today's Washington Times

If the filmmakers behind “Flight” were really interested in an accurate one-word title, they might have called their movie “Booze.” The movie’s true subject isn’t flying but drinking, and the personal will it requires to stop — or not.

Although it initially presents itself as a legal drama about a defiantly drunk pilot who makes a miraculous crash landing, it eventually resolves itself as a more intimate drama about overcoming a drinking demon.

The disconnect makes “Flight” a frustrating, wildly uneven film — packed with muscular acting and more than a few crackling scenes, but tonally inconsistent and unsure of where it wants to go or what it wants to be.

Like the failed flight that becomes the movie’s centerpiece, it stays in the air longer than it should through spectacular acts of individual performance, but still comes apart at the end.

The movie’s first hour is its strongest. It starts in an Orlando hotel room as a commercial airline pilot, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), rises from a night of heavy drinking and decides to top it off with a few more drinks and a line of cocaine. He then proceeds to fly a packed commercial jet bound for Atlanta — until it takes a nosedive into a field.

Whip’s heroic piloting — he flips the plane upside down to slow the descent — allows all but six of the plane’s crew and passengers to live. It’s a tense, masterfully executed sequence. And it sets up the film’s central question: Is he a hero? Or a dangerous drunk?

Read the whole review. 

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  • mr simple||

    Didn't Suderman get the memo that today's review was supposed to be about The Man with the Iron Fists? How am I supposed to know what I think about a movie without two Reason approved reviews?

  • Paul.||

    RZA!

  • AlmightyJB||

    Just go back and find the Kill Bill reviews. Looks like the same movie.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I think what probably happened was they were caught up in a "fight or flight" scenario.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Punny

  • Tulpa (LAOL-PA)||

    I knew this was going to be garbage as soon as I saw the upside down plane. That wouldn't slow the descent at all, indeed it would probably just rip off the wings. They're carefully engineered to create life when right-side up.

  • sarcasmic||

    Just youtubed the trailer and wow, that is pretty dumb.

  • $park¥||

    They're carefully engineered to create life when right-side up.

    THE AIRPLANE GOD!

  • Pro Libertate||

    LIFE! DO YOU HEAR ME? GIVE MY CREATION. . .LIFE!

  • ||

    It only works of there is a gremlin and John Lithgow on the flight. And a Fattie air marshall. With a lightning storm.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I prefer Shatner, with all due respect to Lithgow.

  • ||

    The original "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" had Shatner in it, you fucking obtuse blaspheming shitheel! Written by Richard Matheson!

  • ||

    Very true. Lithgow's gremlin came to mind first, as he conducted the lightning bolt. It was Frankenstein's monster kind imagery that Pro'L Dib summoned. Don't blame me, you incessantly moronic personal bath attendant and giant douche for Kathy Bates.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, I was thinking Gene Wilder and Young Frankenstein, so I really don't know how we started talking about planes and various iterations of Twilight Zone stories.

  • ||

    It was a segue. A rollover, if you will. Electricity here is the key.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, they do have lightning in common. And I think that was Marty Feldman on the wing.

  • John||

  • ||

    Trying to fly the plane upside down makes sense in that linked scenario -- the flight controls have malfunctioned and are making the plane go into a steep nose down dive.

    Is that the scenario in the movie?

  • ||

    The problem with that is that airplane wings only create lift right side up. They were trying to arrest whatever was causing them to nosedive, but would have eliminated their ability to, well, fly. They were obviously desperate and trying anything not to die.

  • ||

    That's bullshit, you slack-jawed uneducated faggot. It's the angle of attack that creates most of the aircraft's lift, not Bernoulli's Law. If you fly upside down and still have an angle of attack pointing up, you'll create lift.

  • ||

    You are correct, but trying it in a passenger jet is folly. This isn't a Cessna or a fighter jet, it's a lumbering monster.

  • ||

    Your mom's a lumbering monster. And, like a passenger jet, I would try turning her upside down if the alternative was certain death.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    You are correct, but trying it in a passenger jet is folly.

    Cap'n Sully could do it, you jerk!

  • ||

    Mass and inertia is a bitch, isn't it?

  • kinnath||

    It sort of depends on what you mean when you say "commercial" aircraft. It also depends on what you mean by flown upside down. If you mean extended inverted flight then the answer is likely no. Extended inverted operation creates problems with fuel supply and oil supply for engines that are designed to be operated in a certain orientation. Aircraft that are required to fly inverted for extended periods of time require modifications to fuel and oil systems. I've flown in an L-29 jet trainer aircraft that allowed inverted flight for 30 seconds at a time due to engine oil sump issues.
    Rolling aircraft inverted temporarily is another matter. Even large aircraft like the A380 can likely be barrel rolled at a constant 1G. Rolling an airplane at a constant 1G would have nil effect on the fuel and lubrication systems for the engines. Bob Hoover, pilot extraordinaire and airshow pilot performed a demonstration in a Shrike/Commander twin engine airplane where he poured a cup of tea while barrel rolling the airplane at 1G

    So the movie is bullshit, but not for the reasons of aerodynamics.

  • Not an Economist||

    As someone who designs (sort of) airplanes for a living, this is correct.

    Wings may provide lift best rightside up, would still provide lift upside down, just not as much.

    If the movie requires the airplane to fly upside down for an extended period of time, then the movie is complete and utter bullshit. However if the airplane is doing a barrel roll that is okay.

  • JW||

    You are correct, but trying it in a passenger jet is folly.

    "You're gonna to do WHAT!?"

  • ||

    You are correct, but trying it in a passenger jet is folly.

    If your plane is jammed in a nosedown dive, and doing nothing results in a 100% probability of everyone dying, then "trying it" and maybe still dying is the smart thing to do.

    Maybe the wings rip off, maybe not. But if the alternative is certain death ...

  • Stormy Dragon||

    Tex Johnston says to kiss his ass:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0sDN-CQZCs

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Lies.

    We all know anyone that has attempted to perform an Immelmann turn has automatically dropped from the sky like a rock and died in a ball of fire.

  • ||

    By the way, I'd like to point out that I'm not a jet pilot, don't know what I'm talking about other than through abstract physics, and just wanted to make this conversation totally Tulpical.

  • ||

    I would think the major problem would be successfully rolling over a passenger jet. See the Fairchild AFB crash.

  • ||

    I would think the major problem would be successfully rolling over a passenger jet.

    It wouldn't be as big a problem as successfully rolling over Epi's mom.

  • kinnath||

    Alvin M. Johnston

    Johnston is best known for performing a barnstormer-style barrel-roll maneuver with Boeing's pioneering 367-80 jet in a demonstration flight over Lake Washington outside of Seattle, on August 7, 1955.[5] The maneuver was caught on film and was frequently shown on the Discovery Wings cable channel in a three-minute short as part of the Touched by History series, while the channel still aired. Called before then Boeing president Bill Allen for rolling the airplane, Johnston was asked what he thought he was doing, and responded with "I was selling airplanes".

  • Not an Economist||

    It is possible, you just need a good pilot.

  • Pro Libertate||

    As Tulpa has already stated, wings don't create lift, they create life. If the wings cannot create life anymore, then they create death. That's what kills people in plane crashes, not falling at a paltry 120 mph.

  • ||

    "Pretend I don't know anything about physics or metallurgy and tell me what the hell is going on!"

  • Pro Libertate||

    GM, I have a question. As a doctor, have you ever had the urge to create life from inanimate matter? Come on, you can tell me, now that you're safely ensconced in Ukraine. Probably in a mountain fastness in the Carpathians.

  • ||

    Red matter? Isn't that from your favorite movie, ProL?

  • Pro Libertate||

    My favorite movie. . .to poop on!

  • ||

    Not safely ensconced yet. I leave next week. The Carpathians are west of UKR, unfortunately, but would certainly provide an ideal locale. Though personally I would prefer the Urals if I was going to do voodoo experiment in the unholy and macabre.

    No, I actually haven't had the urge to pull a Jeffrey Combs as of late.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought they extended into Ukraine. I was thinking Romania, Transylvania, vampires, werewolves, doctors reviving the dead, that sort of thing.

  • ||

    In the Zakarpattia Oblast region, which occupies a very tiny western-most area of UKR and not far from L'viv. I meant to type west of Donetsk, I misspoke, Pro'L Dib. Sue me. -)))

  • Pro Libertate||

    So you're really in a laboratory in the Transylvania region of Romania, living in sin with a bevy of Romanian lab whores.

  • ||

    Well, I am a jet pilot. In fact, I'm flying a fighter jet right now. I'm also rehearsing my guitar solos for my upcoming world tour while I'm putting the finishing touches on my Olympic bodybuilding routine and banging all my groupies at the same time.

  • Pro Libertate||

    You're so full of shit. I happen to know that you're not qualified to fly solo on jets yet.

  • ||

    Hence the groupies, ProL. DUH.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I just didn't want him spreading misinformation. It could wreck his political career. Wait, did I type that out loud?

  • ||

    There seems to be a lot of discussion about my mom, who is in fact a jet pilot. I asked her what she thought of this, and she said "your commenting friends are fucking morons". True story, look it up. Also, she's not as fat as Warty's mom.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We haven't known how to break the news to you, so I'm just going to say it: Dude, she's just a flight attendant.

  • kinnath||

    The wings are engineered to provide optimal lift when the aircraft is in a normal attitude. However, the body itself provides much of the lift as well during flight.

    If you point a 2 by 4 into the wind, it will produce lift based upon the angle of attack of the board relative to the wind and the surface area of the board.

    I wouldn't be surprised at all if a commerical jet was capable of flying upside without the wings detaching at least for some period of time.

  • John||

    Yes it is.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    What we have here is a shitty movie with a good technical researcher. Why couldn't Lucas get one of those once for Star Wars?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Lucas is beyond your timid lying morality, and so he beyond caring.

  • Pro Libertate||

    He is beyond caring. Stupid quote-pasting hands.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Star Trek Star Wars

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Stat Trek greater than Star Wars

  • ||

    FACTPWND

  • John Tagliaferro||

    As will Wile E. Coyote tell you, those acme nut threads are the achilles heel.

  • Loki||

    Tell that to the test pilot who barrel rolled a Boeing 707.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not that I have a cat in this fight, but rolling isn't "flying upside down."

  • kinnath||

    Three basic questions:

    Can the wings handle the stress. Absolutely.

    Can the aircraft (body, wings, and tail) produce enough lift to fly up side down. Absolutely.

    Can you get fuel and oil into the engines to keep the aircraft flying. Not very long.

  • Loki||

    It is for a couple of seconds. /pedant

    As kinnath pointed out above, the issue isn't aerodynamics so much as it's a problem with mechanical issues such as the fuel pumps, oil pumps, etc. being designed to work in a certain orientation suddenly having to work in the complete opposite.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, someone needs to get on the horn to Boeing and ask why we can't have commercial jets that fly upside down.

  • kinnath||

    You can. You just need to cut a check to cover the time and material to develop such a plane, since you're probably the only person that is going to buy one.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Well, after my ad blitz to scare people into thinking that planes that can't fly upside-down are dangerous, we'll see. Oh, yes, we will.

  • Loki||

    Idea for a new business venture: a service that flies passengers from airport to airport, just like a normal airline, except instead of normal big commercial airliners, we'll use small acrobatic aircraft. Perhaps even some old decommisioned military fighter jets (two seaters of course).

    Obviously we'll have to charge a large amount of money for tickets, but it would cater to rich thrill seekers. The same kinds of people who are lining up to pay Richard Branson $200,000 a pop for a 15 minute ride to the edge of space and back There's got to be a market for this sort of thing.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I have an enhancement--make it so they all fly parabolic arcs in route. Zero-g and a flight to wherever you want to go!

  • Loki||

    That's a possibility. And you don't even need an acrobatic aircraft for that. It could be similar to Zero-G, except actually going to a destination.

    Of course, I'm not sure what the FAA would have to say about all this. They'd probably be a giant buzzkill. Fucking feds, shitting on another would be entrepreneur's dream.

  • kinnath||

    The FAA has been discussing the regulations required to support hypesonic transport for quite some time.

    Still plenty of technical problems to solve first.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Fuck the feds. What are they going to do, shoot us down?

  • Loki||

    Yes. And then drone strike our corporate headquarters and throw any survivors in Gitmo on suspicion of terrorist activities.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, good point. Perhaps we should start overseas. Or maybe in Canada.

  • Lord Humungus||

  • Loki||

    PWNED!

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Notice the rapid descent until he recovers to design recommended attitude. It is safe to do with sufficient speed and altitude and airframe strength.

  • Peter Suderman||

    There is a kinda-sorta explanation as to why the upside down trick allows him to level out. Something about the part of the wing that causes the plane to dive getting stuck, so when you flip it over it does the reverse. Probably not very plausible either, though.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Inverting a plane will cause the wings to create lift in the downward direction.

    An aerobatic plane such as a fighter has the wing profile engineered to create less pressure difference above and below the wings, and uses more powerful propulsion and control surfaces to compensate for more extreme attitudes.

    An inverted airliner or non aerobatic prop plane will descend like a rock.

  • kinnath||

    No. Angle of attack determines the direction of lift.

    If the air flow is striking the top surface with an appropriate angle of attack, the wing will produce enough lift to get the aircraft aloft.

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    You are simplifying too much. The control surfaces on an airliner are not really large enough to maintain an angle of attack that would allow inverted flight with the amount of thrust the engines produce. The wing and horizontal stabilizer are oriented with respect to each other to help keep the plane in an angle of attack that efficiently produces lift during normal flight. If you put an airliner in to an inverted position you would have a difficult time getting the plane to point away from the ground, and even if you did the plane would quickly stall at full throttle.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    Aerobatic planes have symmetrical wings, like most of the older helicopters.

  • John||

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvs.....-Bell.html

    What do you call a marriage where both parties are obviously gay but not of the same sex? A double beard? A ZZ Top?

  • ||

    Well played John. This made me laugh for a full 5 minutes. I thought that was a weird pairing too. At least ERW is pretty hot, right? That dude has "bitchy queen" written all over his face.

  • John||

    ERW is definitley the kind of lesbian men would like to think lesbians actually are.

  • JW||

    You dolt, he's not gay, he's British. To be fair, they can be hard to tell apart.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I always thought they were the same thing, and that all the news ones were bred in the former colonies.

  • Loki||

    Obscure movie reference:

    Linus: Name me one Star Wars character who's gay.
    Hutch: Beside's you.
    Admiral Seasholtz: Well, no one's gay in Star Trek, so why would I even do that?
    Linus: Captain Picard.
    Admiral Seasholtz: Okay. Captain Picard is not gay. He's British.
    Windows: [in a swishy voice] Come on. "Make it so!"

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Does this movie proselytize the religion of the Twelve Steps? I'm tired of that Dr. Drew Pinsky bullshit.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Andrew O'Hehir of Salon confirms my suspicion: "Slowly but surely, 'Flight' degenerates from a tale of moral paradox and wounded romance into a mid-1990s after-school special about addiction and recovery."

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I knew a bunch of commercial aviation students and they were all binge drinking bros and their sexy copilot shadows.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I knew an Air Force F-16 pilot. He was a serious alcoholic, and his wife said a lot of his pilot buddies were the same. Most of them planned to go on to fly commercial jets.

  • John Tagliaferro||

    As long as they are the variety of alcoholics who schedule their drinking as to not interfere with work, it is fine.

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