Overall Impression – Some great performances, but an uneven logic and a main character who is too unlikeable for way too long.


Who is your main character? – Captain ‘Whip’ Whitaker.

What is he trying to accomplish? – Physical: Get through the FTSB investigation of his crash. Emotional: Build a loving relationship with Nicole. Spiritual: Take responsibility for his alcoholism and stop lying about his life.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Ellen Block, the FTSB investigator but she is waaaaaaay in the background.  Ultimately, Whip is his own worst enemy.

What happens if he fails? – He will go to jail, possibly forever.


Orphan – Whip is divorced, has no relationship with either his ex-wife or his son, and after the crash he removes himself from everyone.

Wanderer – After he finds out that blood has already been drawn from him after the crash (which will show just how intoxicated he was at the time of the crash) Whip is given a lawyer who will defend him.  He saves Nicole after she is kicked out of her apartment by having her move in with him.

Warrior – Whip attends an AA meeting but can’t take it.  He eventually decides to run away with Nicole but she leaves him.  He battles his alcoholism very unsuccessfully, eventually agreeing to stay at a friend’s house to dry out before the hearing.

Martyr – At the hearing, Whip has the opportunity to get away cleanly by implying that his girlfriend, an heroic stewardess on the doomed flight, was negligent and intoxicated.  He decides to stop lying and admits he was drunk when the plane went down.


Denzel Washington plays Whip Whitaker in three modes: drunk, more drunk, and wishing he were drunk.  While I’m sure it’s an accurate depiction of a man who has lost himself to booze and drugs, dramatically I found it to be very limited.  It reminds me of watching the unrelenting misery in the movie ‘Angela’s Ashes’ where, after 90 minutes, I wanted to scream out “I get it already!  They’re poor!”  Here, I kept waiting for Denzel to really fight his demons, but instead all we get are more demons.  Even that’s not wholly accurate; we get more of the same demons.

I would have preferred to see more of a struggle, a man fighting for more control.  The film hits us pretty hard with the thematic question of ‘Man in Control vs. Acts of God’ but while Acts of God are good theology, Acts of Man are better drama.

– Jeffrey Alan Schechter

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