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Washington helps ‘Flight’ take off

PHOTO PROVIDED Denzel Washington stars as pilot Whip Whitaker in the 2012 film, “Flight.”

Denzel Washington is one of America’s finest actors.

He truly burst on the scene in “Philadelphia” playing attorney Joe Miller for Tom Hanks’ character, Andrew Beckett. Hanks, of course, won an Oscar for that role. Washington garnered a nomination, but didn’t win one until “Training Day.”

One of Washington’s most underrated roles comes in the 2012 film, “Flight.” In it, he plays Captain Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot. Whip isn’t a complex character. He’s an alcoholic and a drug addict. He sleeps with a co-worker and fights with his ex-wife. Not very likeable, right? Well, it gets better.

Following a sleepless night in a hotel room, he boards SouthJet Flight 227 to Atlanta. To level himself off, he mixes himself a drink — vodka and orange juice — just before takeoff. The plane hits some rough turbulence, but Whip fights through it. However, after a quick nap, the plane fails and goes into a dive.

Whip, though, is calm, cool and collected. He’s unable to control the airplane as it continues to dive. In one of the film’s most intense scenes, he tries flying the plane inverted (upside down). At the last moment, he decides to make a controlled crash landing in an open field in Georgia. If you’re afraid of flying, it’s probably best to avoid “Flight.” The crash scene seems unbelievably realistic.

Needless to say, Whip survives the crash. However, there are a half-dozen casualties. He wakes up in a hospital room surrounded by doctors and is eventually questioned by the FAA. Since the plane is fairly intact, the vodka bottles are found. As you can imagine, Whip has some explaining to do.

While Washington carries “Flight,” there are several noteworthy supporting performances. John Goodman shines as Whip’s friend and drug dealer, Harling Mays. Harling is an enabler, but he probably knows Whip better than anyone. Don Cheadle is fantastic as attorney Hugh Lang, who is trying to “fix” the toxicology report in an effort to keep Whip from going to jail. Bruce Greenwood plays FAA representative Charlie Anderson, who is charged with investigating the crash.

We watch Whip go through every imaginable emotion. He’s one of the most flawed heroes to hit the big screen in quite some time. Did he save lives? Yes. Was he high and drunk? Also yes. In an effort to avoid the media blitz, Whip goes into hiding at his father’s old house which brings back a host of bad memories. After trying to get clean following his hospital stay, Whip backslides once again.

The only flaw I could find with “Flight” was a forced relationship between Whip and fellow addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship isn’t necessary, but it explains a lot about Whip and how he deals with women in his life. There are some gut-wrenching scenes, especially watching Whip try to reconcile his relationship with his son.

At the heart of “Flight” is Whip’s struggle. You truly do feel for him. We want to think he’s a good person, but his behavior says otherwise. He has many flaws and demons in his past. No one is perfect and everyone deserves second chances, right?

Watch “Flight” — and decide for yourself.

“Flight” is rated R for the intense crash scene, some gore, sexual situations, adult language and drug use.

You can check out “Flight” on YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes and Xfinity OnDemand.

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Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.

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