After an alcohol and drug induced bender with a flight attendant, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), Capt. William "Whit" Whitaker (Denzel Washington) finishes off a beer, smokes, polishes off a remaining line of cocaine, showers and is ready for his day in the air as a commercial airline pilot.
Whitaker, still feeling the effects, asks for a cup of coffee and some aspirin as he prepares for takeoff, raising some initial concern in his new co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty), a Christian who finds Whit's state questionable and his tactics concerning. But the veteran pilot maneuvers the plane out of the stormy conditions and into clear skies. Mechanical malfunctions cause the plane to begin a nose dive. The pilots struggle to gain some control over the plane and Whit opts to invert the aircraft as a means to level it out. The plan works, and the plane crashes in an open field near a field in Georgia.
Of the 102 souls on the plane, only six are lost including two crew members. Whit is regarded as a hero for avoiding further loss of life in the defective plane.
While in the hospital, immediately following the accident, a union rep and former colleague of Whit's, Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) visits him and introduces him to the National Transportation Safety Board team who will begin investigating the incident. He also meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a heroin addict, recovering from an overdose. A chance encounter in the stairwell, to smoke cigarettes, ignites a relationship between the two addicts.
Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), an attorney hired to represent Whit, shares that his alcohol limit was .25 and traces of cocaine showed up in his toxicology report taken at the scene of the crash. Concerned about jail, Whit winds up dealing with his condition, forced to evaluate who he has become and what he has lost.
He attempts to walk away from the booze, though he continues to deny he's an addict. Those near to hear, with perhaps the exception of his dealer and friend Harling Mays (John Goodman), try to help him, but he refuses the help and continues to head down a dark path.
As the investigation draws nearer to exposing Whit, he drops deeper and deeper into his escape, using the drinks to take away the pain and the cocaine to get him back into gear. The world views him as a hero. The media knows something is being hidden. And the NTSB wants to get to the bottom of the incident, which claimed the lives of six people.
While the movie is set against the background of the airlines industry, it's truly about one man's battle with his demons and the cost associated with clinging to those demons.
On a scale of 5 popcorn buckets, "Flight" lands with 3 1/2 buckets, minus a few pieces due to turbulent weather. Stay away from the drinks unless you want it dumped in your lap. Please return your seats to the upright position. MPAA Rating: R for nudity, language, alcohol and drug use. Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes. This film was reviewed at Southpark 7 Theaters in Spencer.