Flight: A Graphic Picture of Grace

Posted: April 23, 2013 by jperritt in Drama
Tags: , ,

FLIGHT-POSTERWouldn’t you love to see a great film that communicates truths such as forgiveness, love, and repentance?  Of course.  What if you had to wade through explicit nudity, drugs, and profanity to get at it?  Hmmm.  This is the problem posed with a film like Flight.

Denzel Washington gives his most recent Oscar nominated performance in his portrayal as the substance-abusing pilot, Whip Whitaker.  Not only is his performance excellent, but the entire story is ultimately a picture of God’s irresistible grace.

That may be true, but…

Even though the movie communicates some great truths, I don’t want to downplay the explicit nudity in the first five minutes of the film, as well as one other scene.  While I think the director put that in the film to illustrate the depravity of Whip’s character, the same could have been accomplished without the explicit scene.  Fortunately I read about the content first and had my wife tell me when I could stop looking at the floor.

The nudity, however, isn’t the only rough content in the film.  The drug use and language are other concerns to wade through.  I must say that I appreciated the depiction of the drug use in the film.  It was not glorified and it displayed the emptiness and horrors associated with that lifestyle.

As far as the language goes, I know we can’t “earmuff” every offensive word that is uttered by the characters, therefore, you will subject yourselves to a lot of rough language if you choose to watch Flight.  However, you may hear some of the same language visiting a local restaurant, attending a sporting event, shopping at the mall, or witnessing to your neighbor.  This is one area Christians should be challenged on.  We understand the depravity of human nature but seem to forget to carry that over to film.  We know our world is sinful, but we somehow expect our movies to be sinless.

I believe some of our misunderstanding lies in the fact that we can equate disturbing content with corruption.  Just because a film disturbs me doesn’t mean that it has corrupted me.  My own heart corrupts me, but watching the sad effects of an alcoholic father ruining his marriage and family disturbs me.  They are different.  And to be perfectly honest, I know many Christians who need to be disturbed a bit – I am one of them.

We are charged to be radical in our Christianity, to fight against our cul-de-sac Christianity (which I agree with), but somehow we don’t see how film can be a catalyst here.  Film can disturb us in a good way.  The offensive brokenness viewed can move us to greater zeal to preach the gospel.  We see brokenness in the world and it disrupts the comfortable lifestyle so many Christians cling to with white knuckles.  God didn’t promise us a happy, easy life and we shouldn’t expect our movies to be that way either.

Can’t we just read God’s Word to hear the same truths?

There is no doubt that a purer form of the truths communicated in Flight can be found in Scripture.  But when God gives us both, we might do ourselves some good to reflect on them.  God was too transcendent for lowly humans to figure him out, but, in his grace, he has revealed himself to us.  He doesn’t just reveal himself in one way, but two: Scripture and creation.  While Scripture [special revelation] is to remain primary, God has still given us creation [general revelation] to communicate how great he is and Flight does just that.

Whip’s character ultimately represents us [spoilers].  Whip is a liar who has given himself over to his idolatry.  He worships the bottle and his devotion is so strong that he’s thrown away almost every earthly relationship he has.  It isn’t until God, literally, turns his life upside-down in a plane crash that he wakes up.

As his plane careens to the ground, it crushes the steeple of a church while an outdoor baptism is going on – symbolic of Whip’s own baptism.  Whip’s old self, however, fights against this “act of God” in his life.  Lies and substance abuse are his weapons against the bitter providence God has brought about.  Whip’s lies corrupt others around him and it isn’t until the night before his trial that the Lord completely gives himself over to his idolatry.

As Whip is wakened in the night by a knocking sound, he discovers the adjoining hotel room unlocked.  Opening the mini-fridge he discovers its contents filled with alcohol.  He then drinks himself, nearly, to death.  After he cleans up and makes his way to the trial, he is provided with the perfect lie to escape imprisonment.  However, he can’t tell one more lie. While on the stand, Whip cries out, “God help me.” and tells the truth for the first time.

The truth lands him in prison for manslaughter but he confesses, “..for the first time in my life, I’m free.”  Whip fought the truth the entire film, but the truth prevailed.  Flight beautifully depicts the depravity of our own heart and the irresistible love God displays to his rebellious children.

As the movie closes, Whip’s son makes a visit to the prison.  He’s writing an essay entitled, The Most Fascinating Person I’ve Never Met, and asks him a question we all must answer, “Who are you?”  The movie closes without an answer, but we can answer that question for Whip and ourselves – I am a sinner redeemed by a beautiful Savior.


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