Favorite

Turbulent 'Flight' 

Denzel Washington and the plane-crash scene are highlights in an otherwise so-so film

A reckless alcoholic who happens to really know how to fly a plane gets a rather strange and romantic screen treatment in director Robert Zemeckis' uneven but entertaining Flight.

As airline-pilot Whip Whitaker—who likes vodka, beer, cocaine, cough syrup and flight attendants to excess—Denzel Washington delivers a typically great performance. The movie is excellent in the first half-hour, but just OK after that. Even though the film drags and gets a bit melodramatic or trite in spots, Washington always manages to hold it up. That's a tough task, seeing as this one clocks in at nearly 2 1/2 hours.

The film opens with Whip, hung over to the point of still being intoxicated, waking up in a hotel room. A beautiful naked woman prances around while Whip has a tense phone conversation with his ex-wife. Washington plays this scene with a wicked finesse, especially when he leers at the nude woman while arguing with the ex. It's one of those great Denzel moments. Whip then snorts a line of cocaine, dons some sexy sunglasses and a pilot's suit, and heads off to fly a jetliner with more than 100 people aboard. (Viewers will probably do a little extra scrutinizing of their pilot the next time they get on a plane.)

The flight itself is a wonder of filmmaking. Zemeckis produced a shocking plane crash before—Tom Hanks going down in Cast Away—but this sequence is among the best he has ever directed. It's amazing enough when Whip pilots the jet through a storm during takeoff. When that plane takes a dramatic plunge later in its flight, and Whip eventually flies it upside down before gliding it to a crash-landing in an open field, it's a true pulse-racer.

The crash results in minimal casualties, and Whip is initially praised as a hero. Then people start seeing the toxicology reports.

Watching Whip deal with his alcoholism and the eventual legal proceedings gets a little tedious and, at times, ridiculous. The movie hits a real low when Whip visits his co-pilot in the hospital, who happens to be pumped up on painkillers—and far too much religion. It's a scene the movie didn't need.

I'm also not a fan of how Whip conveniently picks up on an angelic heroin addict during his hospital stay. The film chickens out here, refusing to allow Washington to simply portray a man in a downward spiral. The screenwriter just had to throw in the addict with a heart of gold to make Whip more of a romantic character.

With Flight, Zemeckis and Washington have to make a somewhat despicable man worth rooting for over the course of two-plus hours. In the end, they achieve that feat, but only because Washington is almost incapable of being totally unlikable onscreen. Heck, you still liked him when his character's evil ass was getting riddled with much-needed bullets in Training Day, right?

Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle do good work as the union representative and the lawyer trying to save Whip's career, respectively. John Goodman gets some uncomfortable laughs as Whip's buddy and drug-supplier, while Melissa Leo makes a good impression in a short time as a crash investigator.

Flight is ultimately an OK but inconsistent movie about a man's struggle with alcoholism, with a stunning plane crash thrown in. Stay tuned for Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aaron Paul in Smashed, a much-better movie on the subject of substance abuse coming soon to a theater near you.

Flight
Rated R · 138 minutes · 2012
Official Site: www.paramount.com/flight
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producer: Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Cherylanne Martin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Brian Geraghty, Tamara Tunie, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Conor O'Neill, Will Sherrod, Boni Yanagisawa, Adam Tomei, Dane Davenport, E. Roger Mitchell, Ravi Kapoor, Tommy Kane and Tom Nowicki

Trailer


More by Bob Grimm

  • Bad Company

    ‘White God’ isn’t your typical dog movie, plus it’s Hungarian
    • Apr 16, 2015
  • Monster Mayhem

    It Follows’ is a creepy old-school horror flick that scares well
    • Mar 26, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

What others are saying (8)

Portland Mercury Experiencing Turbulence The first 20 minutes of Flight are great! by Erik Henriksen 11/01/2012
The Coast Halifax Flight It's Denzel Washington the best actor ever, he's so darned cool, he's so darned clever by Jacob Boon 11/01/2012
Indy Week Heavy-handed metaphors in Robert Zemeckis' Flight Zemeckis can't resist his mentor Spielberg's penchant for a soppy ending and heavy-handed metaphors. Still, Flight is buttressed by another career-defining performance from Denzel Washington and one of the most breathless scenes in recent cinema. by Neil Morris 10/31/2012
5 more reviews...
L.A. Weekly Flight Review: Denzel Washington Sulks and Soars as an Alcoholic Pilot The yammering about "Oscar gold" and Denzel Washington's potential three-peat soon will reach a deafening pitch, but such noise can only embarrass a fine character study like Flight, whose prevailing tone is melancholy. The mood is there from the opening pan across the Orlando airport under gray, inclement skies, tilting... by Nick Pinkerton 11/01/2012
Arkansas Times Take 'Flight' Latest from Zemeckis and Washington sure to be an Oscar nominee. by Sam Eifling 10/31/2012
Westword In Flight, Denzel Washington's sluggish miracle man is as ambivalent as the plot The yammering about "Oscar gold" and Denzel Washington's potential three-peat will soon reach a deafening pitch, but such noise can only embarrass a fine character study like Flight, whose prevailing tone is a heavy, elemental melancholy. The mood is there from the opening pan across the Orlando airport under gray,... by Nick Pinkerton 11/01/2012
Creative Loafing Charlotte Flight: Up in the air Rating: *** by Matt Brunson 11/02/2012

Facebook Recommendations

The Range

Check Out Tucson High's 8th Unity Festival Tomorrow

Best of Tucson Voting: Settle the Guacamole Debate

More »

Latest in Cinema Feature

  • Human Like

    ‘Ex Machina’ deftly reminds us that the machines are coming, are you ready?
    • Apr 23, 2015
  • Bad Company

    ‘White God’ isn’t your typical dog movie, plus it’s Hungarian
    • Apr 16, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Life is Scary Fun

    “While We’re Young” is the best from Baumbach in 10 years
    • Apr 9, 2015
  • Monster Mayhem

    It Follows’ is a creepy old-school horror flick that scares well
    • Mar 26, 2015
  • More »

Facebook Activity

Tucson Weekly on Facebook

© 2015 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation