On October 14, 2011, Airline captain and recreational drug user Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) awakens in his Orlando hotel room with flight attendant Katerina Márquez (Nadine Velazquez) after a night of sex, alcohol, and very little sleep. After using cocaine to wake up, he boards SouthJet flight 227 to Atlanta.
After Whip threads the plane through severe turbulence at takeoff, copilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) flies the airplane while Whip discreetly mixes vodka in his orange juice and takes a brief nap. Whip is jolted awake just before their final descent when the aircraft goes into a steep dive as a result of an apparent catastrophic failure.
Whip rolls the plane upside down to bring it out of the dive and maneuvers the plane right-side up just before crash-landing in a field. He loses consciousness shortly after impact. What follows is typical fare in the life of an alcoholic; legal wranglings and days filled with turmoil and numerous ups and downs. Between his drug dealer (John Goodman) and his attorney (Don Cheadle), Whip has no idea which end is up.
This is a powerful movie about a man you to want to love’s struggle with alcoholism, he just happened to be in a plane crash. This is not a courtroom drama, not an action flick (the plane crash happens in the first 30 min of the movie and lasts maybe 5-10 minutes tops, after that all drama.
The movie starts out with an epic plane crash scene, one of the best I’ve ever seen in a movie. Denzel’s character takes control of the plane like a pro, with every ounce of drug and alcohol seemingly vaporized from his system and his instincts as an ex-Navy fighter pilot take over.
The movie is great in it has you rooting for this guy throughout, but he keeps letting you down as the viewer, as well as all of the characters in his life. You saw how awesome this guy was in the cockpit, he was a hero, yet he cannot overcome this addiction. How can a man who could do such extraordinary things be so vulnerable to addiction? The movie does this part very well.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Year of Release: 2012
Character to watch: Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?