Denzel Washington is a two-time Academy Award-winning actor that is well-known for committing to the roles he plays onscreen. Bursting into movie theaters in Richard Attenborough’s apartheid-era film Cry Freedom, Washington solidified his place in Hollywood with a stellar performance in 1989’s Glory. Since then, the New York-born actor has played a variety of characters that seem to challenge the status quo and make audiences think about complex situations in a whole new light. One of his most talked about performances came in 2012 with a starring role as Whip Whitaker in the movie Flight. Now, fans of Washington’s can watch Flight at home as the movie is currently streaming on Netflix.
Flight originally flew into theaters with Denzel Washington in the main role as an alcoholic pilot flying a commercial airliner. During one of his flights, his remarkable flight skills come in handy as he crash-lands a plane when a mechanical failure threatens the lives of everyone on board. After the landing, it is revealed that most everyone survives, as Whitaker managed to save everyone but two crew members and four passengers. Deemed a hero at first, rumors of his alcohol abuse while flying lead to an investigation that exposes his social life and personal demons. Flight is aided by its sensational casting with a pre-Yellowstone Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, and Melissa Leo.
Before Netflix acquired the rights to distribute Flight on its subscription streaming platform, director Robert Zemeckis’ film about an alcoholic pilot soared at the box office with a gross of over $161 million against a budget of $31 million. The movie was a hit with critics at the time, with Rotten Tomatoes currently ranking the Denzel Washington movie as Certified Fresh, a score on its Tomatometer of 77%, and fans of the flick ranking it with 75% on the Audience Score. Similarly, Metacritic ranks Flight with a Metascore of 76 from 40 critic reviews and a 7.3 User Score from 413 ratings, which typically denotes generally favorable reviews from critics and audiences alike.
Written by John Gatins, Flight is loosely based on a real plane crash that, unlike the events in the film, killed all passengers and crew onboard. According to Yahoo! Movies, Gatins was inspired by the heroic effort of pilot Ted Thompson of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, who in 2000 successfully rolled the plane upside down in an attempt to save everyone onboard and try to slow their descent before crashing into the Pacific Ocean while en route to San Francisco. A crew member from the real flight could be heard on the black box stating, “at least upside down we’re flyin’,” which is a similar line that found its way into Flight as well. Gatins created a space for his main protagonist, played by Denzel Washington, to save most people aboard his plane, using similar techniques that Thompson tried unsuccessfully in real-life.
The action sequence of the plane crash in Flight is mesmerizing on its own, despite the dramatic tension of Denzel Washington’s character of Whip Whitaker’s investigation and subsequent alcohol problems that take over the second and third acts of the film. Yahoo! Movies reported at the time about the technical approach to the scene, where the effect of turning the plane upside down was generated by building a set into a mock plane cabin similar to one in real-life, securing it to a rotating machine, and having all actors and extras to strapped to the set. The contraption apparently weighed around 30,000 pounds and everyone portraying the passengers and crew of the fictionalized plane had to hang upside down. Very little CGI was used for the visual effect and the people inside the plane can be seen barely acting because they were in fact hanging upside down in reality.
Due to the popularity of the film and the success it had with critics upon its release in November 2012, Flight was the recipient of many awards season buzz. Denzel Washington was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, losing to Daniel Day-Lewis for his performance in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. John Gatins was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, losing to Django Unchained‘s Quentin Tarantino. Currently, Flight is available for streaming on Netflix!