Flight (2012) Nov 11, 2012 17:36:48 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 11, 2012 17:36:48 GMT -5
Denzel Washington pilots a plane that seems destined for certain doom in Flight.
Let me give you this situation; you're on a plane, everything is going smoothly until the plane begins to fail and suddenly you're on a nosedive down to earth, plunging at an increasing rate. Let's say the pilot pulls off a miraculous move, turning the plane completely upside down, before turning right-side up, making a rough but sufficient landing in a wide open field, that saves your life and dozens of others. It is later discovered that he was severely under the influence that day when flying the plane; would you take legal action, or would you be grateful to still be breathing?
That's one of the many moral dilemmas in Robert Zemeckis' Flight, a terrifically exhilarating film, hitting all the right notes as a thriller and as a complex drama. Left to carry a lion's weight of the film, as usual, is Denzel Washington as the plane's captain William "Whip" Whitaker, a man who has battled severe alcohol and drug dependency for many years, even losing his wife and teenage son because of his choice to continue drinking heavily. After he manages to miraculously land the seemingly doomed aircraft, he awakens in the hospital to find numerous news stations and people regarding him as a hero. What those people do not know are the behind-the-scenes instances that make up a large part of the Whip Whitaker who climbed into the cockpit to fly that plane.
Toxicology reports taken from all five of the crew members on board the aircraft show that no one had any alcohol in their system except for Whip, who also put two shooters of vodka in his orange juice he was drinking while flying the plane. We see him before the film in a clearly rattled hotel room with a naked flight attendant as he is informed he will need to fly a plane in a matter of hours. Two cocaine lines and a sip of vodka later, he is out the door. The men who go through hell and high-water to hopefully skew this information from getting to the public and helping Whip remain a free man are attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) and airline union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood). While they're helping Whip more than anyone, the one supplying motivation and, not to mention, some drugs and alcohol is his best friend Harling Mays, played by an enthusiastically lax John Goodman, in one of his funniest performances in years.
The film's main subplot deals with a drug addicted woman named Nicole (Kelly Reilly), who is simply trying to get her life back on track after an accidental heroin overdose that left her nearly dead. One night, she speaks to Whip in a stairwell in the hospital, after both find each other sneaking out for a cigarette as they both exchange innocuous words about their life and why they're here. He serves as not a guardian angel to Nicole, but a person she can keep in her mind who is going through a similar time in their life.
This is Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film since Cast Away in 2000, after tackling monumental motion-capture animated projects such as The Polar Express, Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and Mars Needs Moms, and without a doubt the most confident, assured work he has done behind the camera since Forrest Gump. Zemeckis takes the five minute scene of the plane crash in progress, rarely turning away from these characters during this time, and completely turning up the intensity and feeling of peril to make the most enthralling sequence of the year. I thought I felt intense and shaken after watching the plane crash in Final Destination and The Grey, and boy did I feel relieved during the plane sequence in Argo, but never have I felt so gripped, riveted, and restless during a scene this same year.
A large part of the praise for this film not only goes to Zemeckis' professional direction but Denzel Washington's sophisticated, nuanced performance as a man trying to cope with internal demons and personal grief. A friend informed me before I was off to see this film that the plane crash would only last so long and then would likely become a courtroom potboiler. What is too marvelous is how Flight avoids that execution but will not avoid that stereotype by those who haven't seen it.
I end on the note that this will be a difficult film to watch for many, many people; some of whom, I believe, will be turned off by the trailer if they were personally effected by addiction or they were effected because of a loved one who had an addiction. Flight pulls no punches at simplifying the process of substance abuse, and certainly doesn't pretend that getting clean is an easy road to go down. It shows its lead character as a deeply troubled man, who falsely believes he has everything under control and believes he, like in the plane, is the one manning his system, when in reality, he's, again, like the plane, on a rollercoaster with no tracks.
To end things and to try and sum this up simply and effectively, Flight is an enormously effective human drama, with terrifying sequences of peril, smoothly conceived scenes of emotion, fleshed out characters, wonderful performances (those by Cheadle and Goodman are sure to go under the radar), and the writing by John Gatins (of Real Steel fame) is extraordinarily sufficient and detailed.
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, and Nadine Velazquez. Directed by: Robert Zemeckis.