Starring: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Kelly Riley (Sherlock Holmes), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)
Writer: John Gatins (Real Steel)
Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes
Release Date: 2 November (US), 1 February (UK)
Denzel Washington stars as a pilot with a serious drinking problem in Flight. Does this film take off in style, or does it crash and burn?
The opening scenes of Flight are some of the most expertly crafted and intensely thrilling scenes I have seen in a long time. The plane crash centrepiece feels authentic and really puts you into the moment, and the way the film quickly sets up the character of Whip shows great character work and performance. Once that plane crashes, however, the film takes a slight dive in quality. The film goes around in circles for a little while trying to emphasize Whip’s tragic flaw, but his problem is pretty clear within the first scene; we don’t need to be constantly reminded. A scene or two could have been cut here and had no impact on the emotional climax of the film, which truly forgoes usual movie logic and seriously grounds the movie in reality. By no means is the rest of the movie bad, it just fails to match the stupendous quality of those first fifteen minutes.
Denzel is probably one of the best actors working today, and he delivers another marvellous performance here. His portrayal of an alcoholic feels much more genuine and believable than most film drunks. While his character could easily come off as a self-destructive asshole, Denzel manages to keep enough of his natural charm to make sure the audience is balanced towards his side. The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Kelly Riley truly gets to show off her talent here playing a recovering heroin addict, but her character gets faded out of the movie with little impact and her story never feels properly concluded. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood also provide good support as Whip’s defense. John Goodman is also here playing comic relief that too often feels out of touch with the rest of the movie, almost as if he walked right off the set of The Big Lebowski. He’s good with what he’s given, but he just seems a little OTT for such an emotionally dark film.
It’s great to see Zemeckis working in the land of the living again instead of with soulless mo-cap, and he’s still got it. Zemeckis directs the film effectively, but never lets his style get in the way of the drama. Apart from the plane crash, this is pretty much a straight drama, and the film never tries to hide this with fancy cinematography or bombastic music. The film features heavy use of Rolling Stones music, which eventually gets overbearing. I love the Stones as much as the next guy, but this just gets bloody ridiculous.
In the end, Flight is an engaging film with an opening that is worth the price of admission on its own. Zemeckis has returned to live action in style and, while its unlikely Denzel will walk away on Oscar night with a statue in his hand, he gives a wonderful performance worthy of praise regardless.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10