2012-11-02

Flight – Where Is God In This?

by Yo Snyder

If you’re afraid of flying, you’re probably not going to want to
watch this movie. The opening twenty minutes or so where Denzel
Washington’s  Captain Whip Whitaker safely takes a plane that plummets
suddenly from the sky and (crash) lands it in an open field are pretty
intense. Director Robert Zemeckis, much as he did in 2000’s Cast Away,
keeps the action focused in and around the cockpit. You’re there, on
the plane, experiencing the crash with the rest of the crew and
passengers. However, the movie isn’t about the crash, or the miraculous
landing. Rather, Flight is about life crashing down upon us, and where, if anywhere, God plays a role in any of it.

There’s
a great supporting cast in this film, with Bruce Greenwood, Don
Cheadle, Kelly Reilly and even John Goodman all playing solid parts, but
this is Denzel’s movie through and through. His character is the nexus
around which everything else swirls and collides, and he gives a
performance that’s as solid and as intense as anything he’s done since American Gangster.
Whip Whitaker is charming and confident, but he’s also not exactly
likeable. He’s a liar and a drunk, but somehow his life is so tragic
that you can help pulling for him to get it together. You both want him
to be held responsible for his actions; both for safely landing the
plane and saving so many lives and for being drunk and high when he took
controls of that plane with over a hundred souls on it in the first
place. My biggest frustration with Flight is that despite all
that this character goes through, despite everything that comes and goes
in the whirlwind of everything that takes place, at the end of it all
he’s still in a place where he has no answers. He’s in a better place,
arguably, but I never really got the sense that he’d truly reached a
place of redemption and of answers. It’s all rather vaguely
unfulfilling.

In dark times, in times of tragedy, in times when it
feels like life is spiraling out of control, that’s what we really
want; answers. More specifically, we want to know why, and we want to
know who’s responsible. Those are questions both practical and
existential in Flight. It’s the practical side, the investigation
into finding out why and who is responsible for the crash that propels
the story forward, but it’s the existential side of that question that
challenges these characters to grow, or to despair, or to ponder and at
times to change. Make no mistake, God lingers at the edges of this film
from beginning to end. From church steeples to praying groups to praying
hands on a wall to crosses around people’s next, God is everywhere in
this movie, and at times he seems to be as much on trial as Captain
Whitaker.

There are two general schools of thought when it comes
to God’s involvement in crisis and tragedy. There’s the side that
doesn’t want to have anything to do with God or even acknowledge him,
but when something tragic happens, then it’s demanded of him to know why
he didn’t do something to prevent said tragedy. Then there’s the side
that thinks everything that happens in this world is somehow directed
and caused by him, all for a reason. Of course, both sides basically
assign the blame to God for everything that happens to us. So is God to
blame? Where is he in the midst of…it all? Now I’m not going to say
one way or the other what exactly God’s involvement is in things like
the crash and miraculous landing in this movie, and events like it that
happen in every day life, because the question isn’t so much where is he
in the events and circumstances in life, as is where is he in your
life? People want to know why doesn’t he do something, and he’s probably
wondering the same about us; what don’t we do something about what he
already did? His only son died on a cross and rose from the dead to
secure for us freedom from sin and eternal life. I’ll be honest with
you, that doesn’t always answer all the questions we have in life, but
it does answer the “big” question in life; what happens when this life
is over? Be it a plane crash, a devastating storm, walking across the
street or old age; do you know the answer to what happens when death
comes? At the end of Flight, although he’s made some steps in the
right direction, Captain Whitaker is still searching for that answer.
The real tragedy is that it has permeated everything that’s surrounded
him from the moment he was dragged out of that plane, and either doesn’t
want or just can’t see it.

Flight is a hard movie to
watch. You want these characters to find some sort of hope and help, and
it always seems just out of their grasp because, quite frankly, they
just can’t do it on their own. The movie hints and teases at where they
can find the help to do what they can’t on their own, but never really
articulates it. Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington have certainly put
together a powerful drama about life spinning out of control that
filled with Oscar worthy performances, but it’s missing something rather
crucial; answers. It flits and flirts with them at the perimeter of its
awareness, but for some reason seems reluctant to actually bring them
to the forefront. It’s a hard thing to see a life so filled with so many
lies and destructive tendencies and toll that takes one the person and
everyone around them. Flight is a stark look at such a life, and to be honest, it’s not a journey that everyone’s going to want to make.

Score: 5 of 7 (There is some nudity at the start, and the film also is pretty condemning of alcohol but almost makes cocaine look like a great “pick-me-up”. Also, lots of language, so a few things to consider)