Friday, November 2, 2012

A Reel Review: FLIGHT


Fans of Oscar winning director Robert Zemeckis (FORREST GUMP, CAST AWAY, BACK TO THE FUTURE) have been waiting impatiently for him to step out of his decade-long fascination with motion-capture film (which has produced THE POLAR EXPRESS, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and BEOWULF) and get back to the world of live-action. With FLIGHT, Zemeckis does just that with moderate success, but forgets to bring along some extra jet-fuel which made his earlier work and even his motion-capture films better than good.
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an airline pilot with a drinking problem. After a heavy bender, Whip snorts cocaine to sober up and boards his flight for Atlanta, of which he is Captain. The flight encounters a mechanical failure, and Whip pulls off a skilled and miraculous crash landing, saving all but 6 of the 102 lives on board. After being hailed as a hero, Whip’s toxicology report reflects his physical state (drunk), and he is faced with many moral choices while facing his addiction denial.

FLIGHT spends a lot of time with Whip as he drinks and stumbles and lies his way around the consequences of the flight and eventual crash. He is eventually faced with some excellent moral choices which would help him support his denial and get away from the incident without any prison time (the feds tend to frown upon airline pilots flying drunk). Whip denies his problem, storms out of AA meetings, and pushes away the people who try to help him.
With that stage set, FLIGHT seems set for some excellent drama. Unfortunately, the film never digs deep enough into the issues of addiction, denial, and faith and only presents the tip of the iceberg. We see Whip go through the motions, but never deep enough to really pull you in. Also, for as much time as the film spends with Whip (there are only a handful of scenes without him), we never really learn much more about him other than he likes to drink and lie about it; it brings about an emotional detachment which ultimately means who cares. That and the shallowness of the exploration of the dramatic themes makes FLIGHT feel very routine and run-of-the-mill.

There is still a lot to enjoy about FLIGHT. It is funny, sad and tragic in spurts, and Zemeckis does excellent work in crafting the film together. His talent for picking the right music for the right time hasn’t lost a beat, and he directs a spectacular performance out of Denzel Washington and his excellent supporting cast (Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Kelly Reilly, and a fantastic John Goodman). The real highlight of the film is the plane crash itself, which runs nearly 10 minutes and will have anyone clenching their seats in fear.
The shallowness of FLIGHT again makes it feel very routine, and the ending can be seen coming from a mile above the Earth; it overall feels like a movie made specifically to be shown at AA meetings and MADD/SADD gatherings as it explores only just enough to get a message across. FLIGHT is a trip you can walk away from, but not one you would be so eager to take again.


1 comment:

  1. We, four vadults in all, enjoyed this movie in spite of its being very harsh in many ways.
    I also would have liked to see more air action after the crash scenes although I don't know how you could have worked that into the story line. Saw Denzel on a TV talk show. He was praised for looking so much like a real pilot and asked if, perhaps, he actually was.
    His reply..."Im an actor." And, in our opinion, a prety good one in this flick.


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