What starts as a an air crash thriller with Denzel Washington seemingly the heroic pilot, turns into a searing drama about guilt, responsibility, faith, fate and the vice-like grip of alcoholism.
Denzel plays the highly experienced airline pilot “Whip” Whittaker who finds himself flying a malfunctioning plane that looks set to nose-dive into the earth. After he pulls an astonishing manoeuvre and avoids destroying the plane he thinks he’ll be hailed a hero but an investigation reveals he may have been drunk at the controls.
The film mixes an insightful script with excellent performances to produce a potent and intense film. The “dirtbag seeking redemption” film can be a mighty clichéd beast, but Flight finds new life in that scenario. Occasionally, though, the film becomes a little dull as it wallows like a soap opera in the misery of the characters’ lives.
Denzel Washington delivers one of his career best performances as a broken and morally conflicted man who stubbornly refuses to accept his failings. It’s a remarkable achievement from Denzel that the character of “Whip” is so convincingly selfish and destructive and yet sympathetic. He’s ably supported by Don Cheadle as the no-nonsense union lawyer desperately trying to keep “Whip” out of prison and Kelly Reilly as a recovering heroin addict who tries to lead “Whip” away from alcohol abuse. John Goodman also adds a lightning bolt of energy and humour as Denzel’s crazed, pony-tail wearing drug dealer buddy.
As we might expect from a film directed by Robert Zemeckis, Flight is often technically stunning, the air crash effects are remarkable and scenes on-board the plummeting plane will put nervous flyers off air travel for life. Despite the unnerving realism of the special effects and the passengers and flight crew’s panicked reactions, the manoeuvre Denzel pulls to save the plane seems highly unbelievable and has earned the film a bit of a pasting on-line.
Flight is a flawed but powerful film that’s worth seeing for Denzel’s performance alone, just don’t go into the cinema expecting a fun night of escapism.
Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.
Director(s): Robert Zemeckis
Release date: 31st Jan 2013
Running time: 138 mins.
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