Jan 30 2013 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Denzel Washington, Flight
If you have a fear of flying, then there’s one sequence in Flight that’s not going to help you take to the skies.
A tense, realistic crash sees the plane in question turned upside down before hurtling to the ground, as later mobile phone footage shows the exterior view of the frightening collision.
But don’t be fooled, Flight is no big budget melodrama building up to a climactic plane crash; instead it’s a character study that unfolds after the harrowing incident.
Denzel Washington stars as pilot Whip Whitaker, who is branded a hero after saving hundreds of lives in the crash, but then comes under the microscope when a subsequent investigation reveals some troubling facts.
Flight marks Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis’ first live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away (the one with Tom Hanks befriending a volleyball) having spent the period in between directing mediocre motion-capture animations (The Polar Express).
It’s his most adult movie yet, encapsulated by an opening scene of Whip lying on a hotel room bed smoking and arguing with his ex-wife on the phone as a very nude lady strolls around.
John Gatins has been nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award for his story that covers addiction, recovery, a dark side to media-created heroes and redemption.
The not-so-subtle repeated references to God try to hand these themes too much grandeur when this is simply about one man’s battle with booze and bid to keep clear of trouble.
Witness how, as the airline investigation begins, Whip’s survival instincts kick in and he goes to colleagues casting up the fact they wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for him.
Washington has received a fourth Best Actor Oscar nomination for his performance and, although a second win seems unlikely given his competition, he is in fantastic form.
This is his return to more dramatic fare after spending much of the last five years starring in high-octane action films (Safe House, Unstoppable) and from raw emotion — a hospital tear, Zemeckis’ camera zoom on his nerve-riddled face when he’s first confronted with accusations of drug and alcohol abuse — to the banter he shares with Don Cheadle’s lawyer, Washington’s addict wears his heart on his sleeve.
English actress Kelly Reilly is very good too as recovering addict Nicole and there’s a striking small appearance by James Badge Dale as a cancer patient.
Faring less well is John Goodman’s hippy funster, who belongs in a different movie.
The resolution is a slight surprise but you may need a sick bag for the final couple of syrupy scenes that grate when compared to the darker tone imposed throughout the rest of the film.
Some turbulence, then, but Flight marks a fine return to form for Zemeckis and Washington’s best, most meaty, performance since Training Day.