Saturday, November 3

REVIEW: Flight

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
2012 Drama
2 hours 18 minutes
From Paramount

Denzel Washington
Don Cheadle
Kerry Reilly
Bruce Greenwood
John Goodman
Tamara Tunie
Melissa Leo

There are all kinds of airplane movies, the most popular of which is the disaster scenario (Airport, Airport75 and 111 and 1,076), where we get to know a little about a lot of people... pilot, copilot, passengers. We get caught up in their dramas, often through flashback, while we await that edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting finale where, frankly, most everything works out. They ain't bad... certainly a great rainy Sunday afternoon treat.

This movie could easily have been called Pilot because that is chiefly what it's about. Yeah, we need the doomed flight (and it comes early and is a goodie) and the investigation, but this is chiefly about the man behind the controls. It is about pilot error or possible pilot error and reminds me in that regard of one of my favorite plane movies from the past, 1963s Fate Is the Hunter. Flight is better... way better.

There is never any doubt that the plane has mechanical issues which brought it down but is there additionally pilot error due to drinking and cocaine? It is very clear from opening scenes that this is a man who engages in both and hops in that cockpit under the influence of. Not staggeringly drunk or stoned but hey, don't we kinda want our pilots to be clear-headed?

Before we reach the hearings at the conclusion and a bit of a surprise ending, we see the serious addiction to booze that weighs this man down. If I had a complaint of the film at all, it is likely to be found in the middle with its look at the addiction which swerves a bit into a TV movie disease-of-the-week format. There are clearly other parts that are a treat to hear John Gatins tight and fearless writing.

At the heart of Flight, of course, is Washington's riveting and completely believable performance, arguably the best of his long and lauded career. When this actor is at his very best, I think he plays a flawed hero... a basically good guy who has hit more than a few speed bumps in his life. And while I don't know the actor personally and one could argue that, after all, this is simply a smash-up acting job, I think he taps into something that is very real in his life. The last time he went all out like this is when he last won an Oscar. I fully expect his name will be among the five men nominated for a best actor award.

It was one of those roles where it did not matter a whit what race the character was. It could easily have been played by a caucasian or an Asian. I do not believe his race was ever mentioned.

While we're at it, the entire supporting cast is also superb. I give a special nod to a longtime favorite actor, Bruce Greenwood. It was nice to see him given a little more to do.

It was nice having director Zemeckis return to live action after a long time away with animated stuff. This material is also a little darker than he ordinarily ventures into, but kudos for bringing it all together and providing bristling entertainment.

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