Denzel Washington soars in Robert Zemekis's plane crash drama Flight
FLIGHT (15) Director Robert Zemekis has a reputation for being innovative with technology in his films, Back to The Future, Forrest Gump and the recent forays into motion capture technology with Polar Express, A Christmas Carol and Beowulf. Therefore it comes as something of a surprise his latest film is relatively free of CGI work, aside from an initial plane crash. His work also verges more towards the lighter end of human drama, aside from horror film What Lies Beneath – so an interesting choice in many ways to helm Flight, a study of human character in decline after a plane crash.
Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a booze drinking, drug taking arrogant pilot who, on the day of the titular flight, has been on a three day binge with his air stewardess girlfriend. To alleviate the hangover, he takes cocaine to wake him up, and heads off into a stormy sky. When a mechanical failure sees the plane heading straight down into the ground, he pulls off an extraordinary move which means instead of losing all lives in the plane, only six people die. While being publicly hailed a hero, his advisers are trying to cover up his blood tests – revealing the alcohol and drugs in his system – and begging him to remain sober before he testifies in the investigation. His struggle brings him in contact with a drug-addicted young lady called Nicole (Kelly Reilly) and they form a dysfunctional bond, as he battles his demons.
Flight is a strange mix of a film, which can’t decide what it is meant to be. On one hand it’s a character study of alcoholism, with an outstanding performance from Washington, and on the other a sort of legal drama, where you wonder if the pilot is going to be found out. It’s got lots of great supporting roles as well, but they all seem to think they’re in different films: Reilly in a tortured drug drama – although she deserves plaudits for her work – Don Cheadle in a John Grisham adaptation and John Goodman playing it straight out of a Coen brothers movie. The ending is disappointing as well, in that for once you wonder if a darker take might have made it a more interesting piece overall. Compelling acting, too long and you leave slightly uncertain as to what you’ve been watching.