It has been 12 years since director Robert Zemeckis made a live-action film and that is evident in Flight, a harrowing drama about an alcoholic pilot who saves many lives after a plane malfunction. The talented filmmaker’s effort is a turbulent story with plenty of ups and downs but Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington is there to weather the storm and steer it back on course.
Washington plays William “Whip” Whitaker, a pilot who decides to start his day ridding a hangover with a line of cocaine before flying a commercial flight with 102 people on board. A malfunction causes the plane to go into a steep dive, forcing the talented pilot to roll the plane and glide it upside down before crashing right-side up in a field. The maneuver saved 96 lives, but a National Transportation Safety Board investigation reveals Whitaker was intoxicated during the flight, sending him into a downward spiral that forces him to confront his demons.
Flight is the typical Washington movie: solid directing and writing elevated by a memorable performance from the lead actor (see Training Day). John Gatins script tiptoes toward a dark path, but eventually finds the sunshine with a predictable third act that makes the film an AA public service announcement. Zemeckis delivers one of the most thrilling scenes of the year while the plane is in the air, but is unable to maintain that high when the it goes down. Inconsistencies with characters such as Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a heroin addict who befriends Whip, would hurt just about any lead protagonist. Denzel, however, is not just any other actor. His performance demands attention and blemishes any of the rust Zemeckis shows after his affair with motion capture movies. What makes Washington so compelling is the duality of a character that is its own antagonist. After years of playing the good guy, the Academy Award-winning actor now thrives on flawed characters, which will help him add more awards to his mantel by the end of the year.
Flight is an inconsistent character study saved by its only consistent force: Denzel Washington. The film is a welcome comeback effort for Zemeckis, as well as a reminder of Washington’s talent. While the film itself is predictable, it’s Washington’s unstable, capricious character that allows Flight to soar.Filed under: Movies