An airline pilot’s plane crashes due to equipment malfunction and after an investigation has launched, it is discovered that he had alcohol and drugs in his system during the collision. Make this pilot Denzel Washington and have him act under the direction of Robert Zemeckis and you have yourself something special. That is certainly the case with Flight, a film with such magnetic construction and imploring confidence it will leave you breathless.
Robert Zemeckis, known for making films of enormous popularity such Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away, makes his return to live action filmmaking after a long stretch of directing motion capture animation films (The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol.) And with Flight, he returns with a bang, crafting what is arguably his best film since Forrest Gump. Even though I personally love Cast Away and I thought Beowulf was immensely entertaining, Zemeckis just hasn’t made a film of this quality since the 1994 best picture winner. It is also interesting to note that this is Zemeckis’ first R-rated movie since Used Cars in 1980, and within the constraints of the opening five minutes of Flight, it more than earns that rating. The opening three to five minutes of the film are more than enough to send sensitive viewers to the doors, begging for a refund, as we are exposed to alcohol abuse, drug abuse, an extended depiction of sexual dependency, and some pretty harsh language. That being said, viewers who want to leave should give the film a chance, because just like the life of Whip, our leading character, the film transforms from a grimy and dirty depiction of a monstrous addictive lifestyle to a majestically beautiful realization of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. This is a redemption story. Simple as that.
“My name is Denzel Washington… and I am an alcoholic.” At least that’s what you will be thinking when you walk out of this film knowing what Denzel Washington is capable of doing in a film. Washington, one of my favorite actors, is phenomenal in Flight, providing what is possibly the best performance of his career, certainly Oscar worthy in my opinion, as he holds nothing back in the sickening portrayal of a man held captive by alcohol. The supporting cast is good as well, including a funny performance from John Goodman who, while not given much screen time, makes you bust a gut with virtually everything pushed out of his vocal chords. Don Cheadle goes good work as the lawyer for Whip and Melissa Leo does good as a girl with similar problems in a side story arc.The performances are what drive this film most of the time and, even though the writing is pretty solid, I cannot see myself giving this film such a high score if not for Washington leading the bunch. He simply astonishing.
The film is not entirely flawless, mainly because the film drags a bit in the second act and there is a side story that I feel goes places that aren’t necessarily necessary. Also, some things occur where characters meet that only fate could make happen as they are highly unrealistic. The music sometimes doesn’t fit the mood the filmmakers were going for and the dialogue is occasionally average. But, there is no way to deny that Zemeckis has made a glorious reentry to the live action scene. Washington makes us really feel for his character, even to the point where we want to yell at the screen, “Don’t take another drink!” The film is often times funny, often times heartfelt, and sometimes intense. The crash scene in Flight is one of the best scenes in a film all year, equally entertaining, riveting, and frantic, and one of the finals scenes of the film, which takes place in a courtroom, is nothing short of captivating. This may not be one of the years absolute best films, but it is fierce, moving, and wondrous, with a story that entertains and performances that pull you in.
Run Time: 138 mins
Rated: R for drug and alcohol abuse, language, some sexuality/nudity, ad an intense action sequence
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez, and John Goodman
Writer(s): John Gatins
Director(s): Robert Zemeckis