But once disaster strikes and the plane takes a nosedive, Whip springs into action. In the film’s most dramatic moment, he inverts the plane to level its descent, and then brings it down upright in a field beside a church. All but six of the 102 passengers survive.

This is Whip’s “Miracle on the Hudson” moment –– but he’s no Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. The post-crash investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, headed by Ellen Block (Melissa Leo), reveals Whip’s impaired and –– for a pilot –– quite illegal condition. Suddenly the overnight hero becomes a potential villain facing manslaughter charges and a prison sentence.

“Flight” descends into a courtroom drama, with Whip surrounded by helpers and minders. These include Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), who represents the pilots’ union, and Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle), the airline’s attorney.

Far more colorful are Harling Mays (John Goodman), Whip’s buddy enabler who keeps him supplied with illegal drugs, and Nicole (Kelly Reilly), the proverbial prostitute with a heart of gold.

Nicole has survived a drug overdose, and while in the hospital takes pity on Whip. She’s desperate to reform her own life and wants Whip to come clean and join her on the path to redemption.

It’s a rocky road and, regrettably, “Flight” dwells far too much on Whip’s failings, filling the screen (often gratuitously) with sex, drugs and booze, as well as with “friends” who condone his bad behavior. It also ridicules organized religion, cynically making light of survivors who thank God for the gift of life.

The film contains a disdainful treatment of religious faith, intense disaster scenes, full nudity, a nonmarital situation, drug and abusive alcohol use as well as frequent profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is O –– morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R –– restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.