Reel Critic: Denzel's 'Flight' soars

Whip Whitaker wakes up with a beautiful woman after a night of hard partying. He has a flight to catch in two hours, so he downs more booze and cocaine to pull himself together before strutting onto the plane.

Whitaker is the pilot.

What follows in "Flight" is a white-knuckle takeoff during a storm and an even more terrifying equipment malfunction mid-flight. Capt. Whitaker is a hero for his skillful crash-landing with few fatalities, all the more miraculous considering his condition.

Denzel Washington gives a commanding performance as a man whose carefully hidden addictions are in danger of coming to very public light. His Whitaker is a proud man who believes his miraculous feat should excuse him from any criminal investigation. He's in a flight from reality.

Director Robert Zemeckis ("Cast Away") quickly involves us in this complicated story, although it sometimes stalls in an unnecessary side plot about a pretty heroin addict (Kelly Reilly).

John Goodman has a couple zingy moments (in his "Big Lebowski" shirts) as a trusted dealer. Don Cheadle is excellent as the lawyer and sober mirror-image of Whitaker himself: a smart man proud of his ability to skewer the truth.

"Flight" is a thriller in the best sense, as we witness both physical and spiritual crash landings. How many souls will be saved?

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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