This American drama, which has earned Denzel Washington an Oscar Nomination for a 2013 Best Actor award, tells the story of a middle-aged, regional airline captain, "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who on a flight from Orlando to Atlanta on South Jet Air, Flight 227, expertly brings his plane out of a catastrophic dive and saves the lives of 96 of the 102 people on board.
Injured in the crash, Whitaker wakes up out of a coma in hospital. His tests in hospital have shown him to be intoxicated. After a night of sex with a hostess (who was killed in the crash), hard drugs, and alcohol, he flew his plane the next morning stoned, and "high on cocaine". Whitaker finds himself under scrutiny for his toxicology results.
This is a movie that mixes good actions with immoral ones, and is provocative in the questions it raises. What store do we place on heroism when the hero is deeply flawed, and the heroic deed may not have been possible without the flaw? What role does coincidence, or randomness play in what the film describes as an "Act of God", and what is the real motivation behind genuine heroism?
In the course of pursuing these themes, the movie descends into some murky territory. The lure of sex, drugs and alcohol is ever-present, and it is arguable that Whitaker's turn-around, signalling his redemption, arrives too late. The credibility of his final regret is strained by the the film's heavy-handed ending.
Nevertheless, Washington's acting is wonderful, and Kelly Reilly delivers a particularly impressive performance as a fellow-addict he becomes romantically involved with, but who knows she hasn't the strength to help him. The film itself is about serious addiction, and it also builds up good suspense as a legal drama.
Essentially, however, it is a provocative action movie, though after seeing it, some may not be all that keen to fly again. - Peter Sheehan, Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadie, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, and Melissa Leo. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Rated MA15+. Restricted. (Strong themes, drug use and nudity). 138 min.