“Flight” – A Good Movie for a Writer to See.

Last night my husband and I went to see the movie, Flight, starring Denzel Washington. I had no idea what the movie was about – I had seen an advertisement on a billboard coming out of LA – Denzel looking pretty handsome in a pilot’s uniform and the title. That’s it. 


As we approached the theatre in San Luis Obispo our conversation went something like this:

When’s the last time we went to see a movie in an actual theatre?

I can’t even remember.

I think it was Slumdog Millionaire.

But wasn’t that the Christmas Emma was born? Four years ago – wow!

When on holidays one should do many interesting things. That’s our motto. And seeing a movie is good for a writer. If you watch a movie carefully you can learn a lot about the way to move a plot along from scene to scene, characterization, dialogue, and story arc. As an added bonus, you can do all of these things in less than two hours. Of course, reading novels is a great way to accomplish the same thing, but it takes longer.

Flight, is an amazingly ironic and subtle movie – like an onion, one can peel back layer after layer of meaning – it all depends on how deep a person wants to go. And that depends on what the person came into the theatre with in the first place – much as it will be when (hopefully) a reader picks up my novel.

The scenes of the plane crash had me on the edge of my seat with my hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t gasp out loud too often. Denzel Washington was utterly believable in the role of an alcoholic and drug using airline pilot whose life is falling completely apart. The movie is dark and gripping from beginning to end and for anyone who has even a smattering of experience with what addiction can be like – eerily familiar. The type of movie that makes you feel a bit queasy as just what you expect to happen does in fact happen.

But for the writer, there are so many other levels. Here is a story where the hero and the villain are all wrapped up in the same character. There is no doubt that Captain Whittaker is a hero – he managed to pull off a miracle – crash land the plane and only lose six out of one-hundred and twenty people. In simulator tests after the crash, ten pilots tried to pull off what he accomplished and all ten crashed the plane and killed everyone on board. At the same time, Captain Whittaker is a man who blatantly stepped into the cockpit of a plane under the influence of alcohol. He was responsible for the lives of every person on board that plane and he was drunk and high on cocaine taken in order to counteract his use of alcohol. He saved the lives of one-hundred and fourteen people and yet he betrayed the public trust. Interesting juxtaposition – isn’t it?

For the movie viewer who likes to see a form of justice done – Captain Whittaker does end up in jail. In yet another ironic plot twist, hitting rock bottom and going to jail frees him from his addiction and reunites him with his son. A touching moment occurs at the end of the movie when his son comes to the prison for a visit. He asks to interview his dad for his college entrance exam on the topic of the most fascinating person I never met.

The movie raised an interesting question for me. Could Captain Whittaker have done what he did in the cockpit that day if he hadn’t been in the condition he was? Maybe if he had been sober as he was supposed to be, he would have crashed the plane and killed everyone on board as all the other pilots in the simulator did. Now that is irony, for sure. He saved the lives of so many people and yet he went to jail for breaking the public trust – another irony – justice or a miscarriage of justice? Who can say? No easy answers. A movie that makes a person think – good work Hollywood! That’s exactly what I want my writing to do.





16 comments on ““Flight” – A Good Movie for a Writer to See.

  1. dorothyanneb says:

    That’s exactly how I felt about this movie, especially your last question about if he was sober, could he have landed the plane? Truly nuanced and oniony , this movie. I really enjoyed it.

  2. I kept replaying the steps of THE HERO’S JOURNEY in my mind and was getting antsy to see some serious, significant change in the main character, some “elixar” to bring back to the real world. It wasn’t the ending I expected, but it worked for me. And you’re right, I still find myself thinking about it.
    Good post!

  3. Informative post. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but now want to. I don’t know if I’ve viewed a movie in the past from the position of the writer – good idea. thanks.

  4. Gerry Wilson says:

    I’ll put this one on my list, although like you and your husband, we don’t go out to movies much! But movies do teach us a lot about plot (and it sounds like, in this case, character development, too). Thanks for the informative post.

    • You are very welcome – I just heard on the radio that “Flight” is getting a bit of Oscar buzz with a nomination for screenwriter, John Gatin – apparently he spent 12 years working on the screenplay for, Flight. Thanks for stopping by the blog. Hope to hear from you again, soon.

  5. I have not watched the movie you mentioned here yet. I will check it out 🙂 I totally agree with you. For writers (including aspiring writers like me), it is important to see movies. There are lots to learn. Thank you for the Like to my post! Have a great Sunday 🙂

  6. “Great Advice!” was what I just tweeted about this. Now I find myself wanting to read your book.

  7. […] to my site wanting a definitive movie review – though it did turn out that my earlier post: “Flight” – A Good Movie for a Writer to See.   was well […]

  8. Super post. Everything works just right. As an author-first an actor for years-I appreciate the making of movies and now writing books. Good job, Francis. I write Romance/Suspense with my seventh book, The Catch, to be released in a few days.

    • I wish you the best of luck with your new release 🙂 I am in stunned awe at the thought of how it must feel to be releasing your 7th book. Think I’ll check it out. thanks for stopping by.

  9. Ayush says:

    The profound thought you found after watching the movie is quite similar to what came into my mind when I watched the movie. Specially the last scene where the son of the pilot was asked to write an essay about the most fascinating person I’ve never met. This particular remark struck my mind and is still buzzing me and I want to know the answer for it. As writing is one of the best solution to sort out any dilemma, I tried it. Unfortunately I’m not a writer and even after trying hard about it all I could come up with is a 3-4 page

    As you’re a writer, Can I ask you for a favor. Can you write a novel on this topic? Or if you’ve already did it can you please tell me where to get it from?

    Thanks in advance.

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