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Flight

Flight

By Ben Nicholson • May 23rd, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
FLIGHT (MOVIE)
Paramount Home Entertainment

Release date: June 3rd, 2013
Running time: 127 minutes

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins

Cast: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle

Flight

Sometimes a director we love can really make us question our faith in them. This happened with Robert Zemeckis. After spending years enjoying Romancing The Stone (1984), Back To The Future (1985) and its sequels I then realised he was the man behind Forest Gump (1994). It was almost inconceivable to me that the man that brought me so much Toontown joy with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) could be responsible for one of my most deplored movies. Whether I wanted it to or not, this coloured my opinion of all his future films.

So going into a new film by the director, I had trepidations. Luckily, I needn’t have been so apprehensive. With his return to live-action cinema for the first time in over a decade. He’s delivered an enjoyable drama with a very good central performance and a narrative that keeps us guessing until its final minute.

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a pilot who arrives on board a domestic flight from Orlando to Atlanta after having spent a sleepless night, full of drugs, alcohol and sex, with one of the stewardesses. With a rookie co-pilot, Ken (Brian Geraghty), sat beside him, and a couple of shots of vodka as a pick-me-up, they set off for their destination. After a turbulent take-off, Whip gets some much needed shut-eye leaving Ken with the wheel but on the approach to Atlanta they suddenly lose control and nose dive. Taking drastic and unorthodox measures (flying upside-down), Whip manages to crash-land the plane keeping the casualties to a minimum.

Flight

In the resulting investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, however, it becomes clear that the hero pilot will be a prime target when his a toxicology report indicates he was several times over the legal limit to drive a car – let alone plane. With a lengthy prison term the outcome if he’s found guilty, the airline pilots union and hire a hotshot attorney, Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to work on Whip’s case. Whilst at the hospital, Whip meets the beautiful young Nicole (Kelly Reilly) whom he seeks out after learning of the impending investigation. Sadly, as she tries her hardest to kick a dangerous drug habit, Whip’s alcoholism develops.

With the NTSB hearing fast approaching, it looks as if the only way for him to avoid prison is to confidently, and soberly, deny any accusations if they come up in the hearing. Keeping sober looks like an almost impossible job though.

Flight

Flight was always going to live or die on the performance of whoever was signed up to play Whip Whitaker. Needing to finely balance being likeable and charismatic with an awful descent into truly unlikeable alcoholism is not something that would be easy to pull off. In Denzel Washington, the studio found their man and he really delivers in one of the most intricate and complex roles I’ve ever seen him in. He’s perhaps not able to grand-stand in the same way, but I think preferred this to Training Day (2008). He’s more than ably supported by a wealth of additional talent with Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, and the aforementioned Geraghty and Cheadle. Reilly gives a well judged performance as the recovering addict, Nicole, imbuing her with a conflicting resolve and fragility.

Given that this is a difficult subject to put up on screen – especially with a character that we’re expected to root for – Flight handles it themes well and does an even better job of keeping us guessing right until the last minute. When the hearing begins we have no idea how it will go down and it gets no more obvious from there. It may not be a masterpiece but it’s a very well put together American drama with a performance that’s worth seeing it for.

Flight

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.

His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

Ben has his own film site, ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, and you can follow him on Twitter @BRNicholson.

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