Flight was a movie I enjoyed so much not just because it has Denzel Washington who is one of the few truly gritty actors in Hollywood, but because it had a lot of clues about ‘Acts of God’ implying His providence. At first sight, the references to God in the movie appear to be a case for shabby script writing, but after more thought, I saw a pattern.
Denzel Washington is an chronic alcoholic who skilfully crash-lands a Flight that ‘fell apart midair’. He is hailed as a hero by the world. But the medical reports show alcohol in his blood. His brilliant save not withstanding, if convicted in the hearing, he could be incarcerated for ‘voluntary man-slaughter’. Don Cheadle is the lawyer who is going to save him. Even after the crash, Denzel is unable to stay off liquor. He tries but fails. His family is broken. The big question throughout the movie is why Denzel can’t seem to keep away from trouble.
Will Denzel finally be free. Why is God so often mentioned in the movie? Denzel’s Lawyer says that key to winning the case against him was to put the phrase ‘it was a the act of God’ in the court hearing documents implying that the cause for crashing the flight was an ‘act of God’ and had nothing to do with Denzel’s alcholism. This is an important clue. The lawyer succeeds in getting his language in, but does the ‘act of God’ save Denzel after all. What is the act of God doing here, really? Is it really going to save him.
One of the first clues to understanding why God is omnipresent in the movie is why the Flight should crash land in the in the premises of a Church? Why should a director do that? Why not an empty field? Why not a Lake or a River? Why does the Flight have to clip off the top of the Church Spire? Which on retrospect was the cause for the Flight breaking into pieces upon impact. Lives would potentially have been saved had there not been a Church in the first place. Why does the Church Spire play this ignominious role of making the disaster fatally worse, tightening the noose on Denzel? Is that all co-incidence?
Why are the Church parishioners, in the days and weeks after the crash, still coming back to the crash site and praying for the victims? I mean, they aren’t hoping to raise people from the dead after they have been buried some place else, are they? Why do Denzel and his Lawyer see the praying parishioners and talk about them? Why does Denzel in incredulity ask, ‘What God would want such a thing to happen?’?
A key Clue: There is a scene where Denzel goes to visit his injured co-pilot in the Hospital to ask him to testify that Denzel wasn’t Drunk. The Co-pilot is a fire-breathing Pentecostal Christian who earnestly prays with Denzel that God is provident and that something good would come even out of this. He prays for Denzel to use this opportunity and change from his drunken ways.
Spoiler Alert: Denzel gets many opportunities to change his drunken ways but he does not. He lives in a state of denial of his depravity. So he can’t set himself straight in spite of getting a new girl friend who encourages him to not drink. She takes him to AA meetings which takes him deeper into his drinking binge. He is given multiple opportunity to be good, but he fails again and again. Finally, he puts himself into a self imposed exile and stays away from liquor for 9 straight days, he almost succeeds, until the night before the hearing.
After 9 days of being clean, with a false sense of satisfaction of having blotted out all the depravity of his past life, waiting to be vindicated in the hearing, Denzel is at the cusp of winning the court battle.
He stays in a hotel room the day before the final hearing. Everything is going as per plan. He has been off liquor for 9 days. He will be acquitted and all will be well. Just as he is about to go to bed, he hears a door rattle in the wind. Why should this happen? He goes to check… He realizes the door opens into the next suite. He walks in. Closes the window. He hears the hum of the refrigerator. Why should he have? He opens the refrigerator. Guess what… it is filled with the choicest liquor bottles. Why of all places? Why after he had all the ducks in row? He goes on a drinking binge and looses the case the next day.
He goes to court hearing and realizes that his lying about drinking would disparage the character of his dead colleague with whom he had a ‘relationship’, he decides to face up to his depravity and own it. He voluntarily pleads guilty. He in incarcerated. In the prison, he finally gets over his drinking habit and recounts his story to his fellow inmates. He says something interesting, “It seems strange that I am saying this now, being here… I feel I am free at last.”
Could the door rattling in the wind be an ‘act of God’. Or was it just random coincidence. Could the Flight crash-landing on the premises of a Church an ‘act of God’ or was it just a random coincidence. Could Denzel trying to get over his habit and failing again and again an ‘act of God’. Were the ‘acts of God’ programmed such that they would force Denzel to face up to his own depravity.
If one looks back at the movie, the Pentecostal Co-pilot has a point, God had providentially used this disaster to help Denzel face his depravity and to set him Free. The Lawyer was right, it was after all the ‘act of God’ that such a thing happened. The prayers of the faithful parishioners weren’t of no avail. It was almost like the system was rigged to make Denzel repent. He couldn’t live in the state of denial. He had to face his depravity. If the crash of a Flight next to a Church cannot do it, a rattling door will. If the rattling of door will not work guilt associated with disparagement of a dead colleagues will. By hook or by crook, call it an ‘act of God’ he is set Free.
Which made me wonder… how often in a Christian’s life by hook or by crook, by the ‘act of God’ we are set Free from our ‘idols’ that enslave us. We can live in a state of denial for a while. We can refuse to face our depravity in pursuing our ‘idols’ for a while. Eventually, we find that we can’t keep kicking at thorns and thistles. Through ‘acts of God’ facing disappointments, despondency and depression, if we will acknowledge the reality of our own depravity and then we will be set Free. Unless know who we truly are without God we will not be ready to set free.