The crash kills six people onboard, including the stewardess he was with the previous night. Immediately after the crash, Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, is seen as a hero because he prevented the plane crash from being worse than it could have been.
During the flight, which starts out very very bumpy, Whitaker takes a break. He's so confident that he uses an eye mask to rest, and leaves the plane in control to his co-pilot, who starts to lose control. In a riveting scenes that will have you on the edge of your seat, Whitaker takes control while the plane is nosediving, and manages to turn it upside down to help it become stable. It then crashes into a field next to a church, narrowly missing several churchgoers.
After several days in the hospital recovering from his crash (where he meets Nicole, played by Kelly Reilly, a young woman who is recovering from a drug overdose), he has his drug dealer sneak him out so that he can really recover. They don't go home, or to his ex-wife's house, due to the media camping out, but to his late father's farm. Unbeknownst to Whitaker, a blood test was taken at the hospital and comes back positive for cocaine and alcohol, which could put him at fault for the crash, and send him away to prison for years. It is up to the head of the pilot's union, Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), and attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to help him with the upcoming National Transportation Safety Board investigation, at which they hope his blood tests will be ruled inadmissable.
In the meantime, Whitaker falls into a relationship with Nicole, and as she has nowhere else to live, she moves in with him. She tries to help him with his cocaine and alcohol habit, which is also hurting his relationship with his teenage son, who wants nothing to do with him. Does Whitaker get blamed for the crash? Will he have to serve the rest of his life in prison?
Flight is a riveting film that belongs to Washington. The two-time Oscar winner is compelling as the pilot plagued with demons, who can't seem to get his life back on track after his divorce. Washington, known for playing all sorts of roles, has been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film. John Goodman, most recently seen in the hit movie Argo, plays drug dealer Harling Mays, in a role that is very over-the-top and at times, not quite convincing. (This is especially the case near the end when he is asked by Anderson and Lang to sober Whitaker up for his trial by snorting cocaine.) Reilly is very good as Nicole, giving a simple and understated performance.
Flight is a very good film, though at times it can be a bit unbelievable, especially given how nowadays pilots are under lots of scrutiny.