The intense drama was drawn from an original screenplay by John Gatins (Real Steel) and made on an increasingly rare mid-range budget of $30 million. It is the first live-action film directed by Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis since Cast Away (2000) and the first film of any sort to feature real acting by two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington since Training Day (2001).
The former spent the intervening years experimenting with motion-capture technology, and the latter spent them appearing in action movies. It’s good to have them back doing what they do best: telling stories about real people.
Like Cast Away, Flight begins by showing the audience a little about a busy man trying to cope with his life, then shows him experiencing a harrowing plane crash before devoting the rest of its screen time to focusing on how he copes – mentally and physically – with the aftermath of the events that he has endured, which have left him largely isolated.
In the case of Flight, the man is Whip (Washington), a first-rate commercial airline pilot who also has substance abuse problems. One morning after a rowdy night, he is in command of a plane with over 100 souls on board when it begins to experience mechanical failure. Rather amazingly, he manages to land it with only a few fatalities.