For Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) it truly was a perfectly ordinary day. At least it was that morning before the flight took off. For him an ordinary day was usually preceded by a night of partying, drinking to excess, drugs like marijuana and cocaine, and sex.
All night long. In the morning, Whitaker would drink whatever was left on the nightstand next to the bed, smoke, and he’d get himself right, as in ready for work, by snorting a few lines of nose candy.
He arrived at the airport on this particular day in a heavy rainstorm. He performed the usual pilot’s ground check of the plane’s exterior before boarding.
He greeted his flight crew as usual. He looked, sounded, and acted as chipper as any guy reporting for work.
However Whitaker wasn’t just an ordinary guy reporting for work. As we all know, Captains on airplanes usually make an introductory speech to the passengers. Whitaker did this (Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I invite you to sit back, stretch out, and relax. I’ll have you on the ground in 40 minutes) while standing in the forward galley of the plane. He was mostly in full view of the passengers and cabin attendants. Only while with one hand he was holding a microphone and greeting the passengers, with his other hand, which was hidden behind the galley wall, he mixed three airline bottles of vodka into a bottle of orange juice, which he then took with him into the pilot’s cabin.
On this perfectly ordinary day, Captain Whitaker’s personal habits collided with a severe rainstorm, a plane that fell apart at 30,000 feet (a mechanical failure of a key element of the airplane’s equipment) and an act of God. The malfunctioning plane fell from the sky, and somehow, the people and the plane met the ground in far less than the expected flight time of 40 minutes. Whitaker managed to land the damaged plane in a field, thereby avoiding the catastrophe or disaster of killing everyone on board. Of the 102 people on the flight, 96 survived. There were just six fatalities.
On its face, Whitaker became a national hero. But below the surface there was the matter of the blood test performed on Whitaker after he was pulled unconscious from the wreckage.