Like other movies by director Robert Zemeckis, this one had really cool special effects and a thrilling start that drew us immediately in. I wouldn't recommend watching this movie if you're catching a flight in the morning. And if R-rated movies bother you, move on. I don't know much about catastrophic airplane equipment failures, and the plausibility of maneuvering the aircraft the way the pilot heroically did in the beginning minutes of the film, but I recognize his mental struggle and his character and think the movie got all of that spot on.
We were rooting for someone who belonged in prison, someone so full of charm and self-loathing that our struggle mirrored his own. We loved him and hated him and most of all wanted to believe him, all his quirky excuses, all his far-fetched defenses, all his stories. We were along for the ride and felt his inner resistance. The pilot just could NOT stop drinking for very long at all, even when the stakes got very high. He put his life - and so many others - in danger.
Denzel Washington provided a poignant portrayal of the struggles of the addict - and the people whose lives he touched. He was a charmer and a jerk, broken and selfish, compelling and constantly tempted. We saw the disappointments, felt the despair, witnessed the self-destruction. We pulled for him even though he wasn't pulling for himself. It was a painful and believable performance, and the dichotomy of him as both hero and addict really sucked me in.
The Hollywood ending is a little bit disappointing, because whipping this addiction isn't usually this neat and tidy. He found his rock bottom and then found redemption. And there waiting was his curious 15-year-old son, ready to discover him, describing his dad as "the most fascinating person I've never met".