|Denzel Washington in Flight|
2012, 138 minutes
Rated R for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity, and an intense action sequence
Flight is the first-live action film from Oscar-winner Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back to the Future) since 2000's Cast Away. What a return this is. Flight stars Denzel Washington, Kelly, Reilly, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo. It is about a pilot, Whip Whitaker (Washington), who flies a plane after a night of drugs and booze. Shortly before landing, the plane crashes. Afterwards, an investigation is carried out on what exactly caused the crash.
Flight is a powerful film about addiction (something not even hinted at in the trailers). Whip, established in the first scene, has a severe drinking and drug problem. Though the involvement of alcohol and drugs in the crash is investigated, the main story focuses around Whip's addiction. While the film doesn't break new ground with addiction dramas, it does portray addiction brutally, honestly, and compellingly. Whitaker's addiction starts off bad and gets frighteningly worse.
John Gatins' screenplay is quite good. It follows a traditional structure and uses it completely to its advantage. It tells a solid story that was riveting throughout. After the long plane crash sequence, the movie loses substantial steam, but not long after, it picks back up and becomes as interesting as any film you are likely to find this year. The last third also packs a large emotional punch. Yes, it uses some cliches to deliver that punch, but they are woven so well into the narrative that they rarely seem corny.
The plane crash sequence is one of the most harrowing disaster sequences put on film. Zemeckis ratchets up the intensity by almost solely focusing on the cockpit. From this point-of-view, we can see out the front windshield of the plane. He also shows brief glimpses of the horror happening in back. The visual effects are top-notch in this sequence and Jeremiah O'Driscoll's quick edits make this sequence unforgettable.
Denzel Washington gives an amazing performance in Flight, one that will surely be Oscar-nominated by the end of the year. During the plane crash sequence, he portrays panic underneath a disguise of coolness so well that I was convinced that he was not an actor, but that he was Whip Whitaker. It would have been extremely easy for any actor to succumb to overacting for this sequence, but not Washington. He gives Whitaker such a three-dimensional persona that it is simply mind-blowing when he pulls off something like this. But, the great acting doesn't stop there. After the crash, Washington portrays the guilt and alcohol addiction with the utmost authenticity.
Overall, Flight has its flaws, but is a great film that marks Zemeckis' best film in years. The second half of the film is so compelling that it made me forgive the slow section in the first half after the crash. For those that don't like to fly, this will not be a film for you, but for me, this was a moving, well-acted film that did its job quite well.