It’s good to have Robert Zemeckis back making standard movies without any motion-capture or 3D shenanigans. I don’t always love everything that he does, but his obsession with his FX and animation toys was, at one point, looking likely to overshadow all of his previous achievements (let’s not forget, this is the director of the Back To The Future trilogy). Flight shows that he’s not lost any of his skill when it comes to making live action movies and it’s a cracking return to form for a talent I thought we had lost forever.
It has a number of faults, it’s too heavy-handed in many places and almost grinds to a halt during moments when it preaches to the audience, but there are numerous scenes put together so expertly that you can relax and enjoy yourself, knowing that you’re in safe hands.
Funnily enough, that’s what many people do when they fasten their seatbelts as their plane journey begins. Trusting experienced and skilled pilots to get them from A to B. Experienced and skilled pilots like Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington). When the plane that he’s piloting starts to seriously malfunction, Whip Whitaker performs a daring set of maneuvers that ends in a crash landing with six people dead. That may not sound like a good result, but the other options would have seen a lot more fatalities, which makes Whip Whitaker a hero. Unfortunately, he’s a flawed hero. On that fateful morning, Captain Whitaker had been drinking alcohol and also snorting some cocaine. That’s not going to go down well with the investigation team and those wishing to apportion blame.
Flight takes viewers on one hell of a ride, no pun intended, as they’re first shown an impressive, and wince-inducing, crash landing before accompanying a lead character who seems happy to keep putting alcohol into his bloodstream even as it becomes apparent that an appearance of sobriety will help him escape the finger-pointing aftermath relatively unscathed.
The biggest problem with the movie is the script by John Gatins, it’s just far too preachy in places and veritably grinds to a halt in the last ten minutes to present the audience with some kind of grand sermon for a finale. It’s a shame to think that people may leave the cinema with that thought, the film deserves to be remembered for much more than a disappointing final couple of scenes (in fact, the scene before the clumsy coda almost had me in tears, such was the power of Denzel’s performance).
Zemeckis directs with his usual skill and makes the whole thing seem pretty effortless, but he’s not the biggest plus point for the movie. Oh no, that would be the cast.
Despite working with material that veers between good and horribly heavy-handed, almost all of the cast do a superb job. Denzel gives another truly great performance as a good man with a bad addiction, Kelly Reilly is very good as the heroin addict who enters his life while she’s trying to clean up and Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle are both on top form as two men who want to help bury the truth and ensure that the pilot who really did perform an almost miraculous landing remains an unblemished hero. John Goodman breezes into the movie at about the thirty minute mark and appears to have wandered in from some completely different film, but he’s also very enjoyable and his lively, raucous character, undeniably, helps the pacing. Good support also comes from Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Melissa Leo, James Badge Dale and more.
Flight will annoy people, and there’s no denying that it could have taken the separate elements and blended them together in a slightly smoother fashion, but it’s a showcase for some great acting put together by a great director who has been away from live action movies for far too long (Cast Away was twelve years ago, for goodness sake). Enjoy it.
Flight isin cinemas 1st February 2013.
DIRECTOR: ROBERT ZEMECKIS
WRITER: JOHN GATINS
STARS: DENZEL WASHINGTON, KELLY REILLY, BRUCE GREENWOOD, DON CHEADLE, JOHN GOODMAN, TAMARA TUNIE, BRIAN GERAGHTY, MELISSA LEO, JAMES BADGE DALE
RUNTIME: 138 MINS APPROX