First Hit: Exciting beginning with amazing scenes of the flight and crash.
This film uses a very taut elongated scene of a plane crash made both believable and unbelievable because the opening scene of pilot Whip Whitaker (played by Denzel Washington) finishing up a wild night of sex and drugs with his co-worker flight attendant Katerina (played by Nadine Velazquez) just before they get on the plane to fly it from Florida to Georgia.
A couple lines of coke, a couple mini bottles of vodka and he’s on his way. At take-off he scares his Christian co-pilot Ken (played by Brian Geraghty) by flying through a hug storm and when he gets to clear air he hands the plane over to him while falling asleep in a comical pose.
When the plane, all of a sudden, heads into a full dive, Whip wakes up and takes charge. Amazingly he figures out to keep the plane from diving straight into the ground by going inverted and just before they hit an open field he’s aimed for, he flips the plan upright and out of the 102 passengers and crew all but six make it.
The film's other story is about Nicole (played by Kelly Reilly), a long suffering drug using masseuse. She ends up in a hospital from OD’ing after shooting up some powerful heroin. She meets Whip when they are both in the hospital and there is a connection.
Here is where the film gets interesting because when they are both on the screen, it isn’t Whip I’m watching – it’s Nicole. There is an amazing strength and vulnerability Nicole shows which not only draws in Whip, it entices the audience. When both are fighting their inner demons about ready to do their drug of choice, it is Nicole that my heart wanted to help. Nicole choses to get sober and although she tries to assist Whip, he’s not ready.
When the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigates, they are suspicious about Whip and his being drunk. In the decision scene, the audience wonders will he save his ass or will he own the truth.
Washington is excellent as Whip, a very functional alcoholic and commercial pilot. The scenes where he’s in his uniform, walking down a hall with his sunglasses on says it all, I’m in control as long as you can’t really see me. Velazquez is good as his current squeeze and attendant who saves a young boy. Reilly, is superb and steals every scene she is in. Geraghty is great as a his Christian co-pilot. Bruce Greenwood is very good as Whip’s old pilot friend and head of the pilot’s union. John Goodman is oddly and interestingly cast as Whip’s old hippy like personal drug dealer. Don Cheadle is strong as Hugh Lang the Pilot’s Union lawyer. John Gatins wrote a great and interesting script. Robert Zemeckis directed this film in a very tight focused way.
Overall: This was a very good film and worth the ride of watching the highs and lows of a man’s life.