Release Date: November 2, 2012
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle
Runtime: 138 min
Finally, Robert Zemeckis has returned, after twelve years, to directing real people (at least he didn’t generally disappear from the directing game like James Cameron did for twelve freaking years). Zemeckis’ last live-action film was 2000’s Cast Away, and since 2004, he has been experimenting with his unique knack of animated features. In 2004, he brought us the decent enough The Polar Express; in 2007, he brought us the Action/Animation feature Beowulf; and in 2009, he brought us the pretty over-the-top-and-not-in-a-good-way, Disney’s A Christmas Carol. Now, he’s back with a big old ka-boom to direct this beauty.
Whip Whitaker is ready to fly a plane after a night of partying. Once he takes that puppy in the air, it soon gets attacked by turbulence, and soon enough, the hydraulics take a turn for the worse. He lands it safely on the ground, and saves a lot of lives because of this. For a short time, he is seen as an unarguable hero, but once an investigation gets put in order, it reveals that Whitaker is a struggling alcoholic. Whitaker makes friendships along the way, and must simultaneously face both ridicule, and must fight off his inner demon of alcoholism and come to terms with the beast that lives inside of him.
Flight doesn’t feel as long as it actually is. By the time the film is over, you may not have any idea that two hours and twenty minutes have gone by. And when you do realize it, you won’t mind. Flight is totally compelling and often gripping. There is not one bad scene in this feature. The world of addiction is well and profoundly investigated with Whitaker, especially because he cannot admit to himself, or others, that he has a pretty serious problem. He also feels that if he wasn’t drunk during the time of flying, everyone on the plane may have survived. That opening 20-minute sequence of the plane rushing through a sea of turbulence, and flying upside down, is both exciting and just a wicked does of an adrenaline rush. Imagine any other plane crash sequence in other films, and imagine it hyped up on cocaine and codeine (but without overdosing). Do you have that picture in your head? Yeah, it’s pretty crazy, exciting and tense all at the same time. Even after seeing it a second time, you’ll still feel as tense as you did the first time around. The suspense for that scene is beautifully created, and you can just feel it on each character’s faces.
Flight sometimes can feel like an AA meeting, but only in a few scenes, especially when they are at an AA meeting of sorts. Though, those scenes aren’t even bad. The fact that Whitaker wants to push everyone away who just wants to help him, can get a little frustrating for the viewer. Still, we all can feel the turmoil that Whitaker is facing in this state in his life, and over a vast majority of his life. Denzel Washington yet again brings a great character to life with ease, and portrays him beautifully, and makes us want to root for him wholeheartedly.
There is a sort of dramatic, emotional, darkly hilarious at times, and philosophical blended atmosphere that one can really get absorbed in. We, the viewers, may not know the true hardships of addiction and may not understand Whitaker’s drinking, but we must comprehend that it seems like a very difficult disease to defeat. One person who tries to help Whitaker overcome his addiction is Nicole, a heroin addict who is trying to get sober. The relationship between the two grows is nice but can get a little strained because they both are addicts, but she has come to terms with her addiction and wants to overcome it, while Whitaker is having a tougher time. Some other relationships formed in the film are nice too, but almost all don’t feel great (like with his union rep, Charlie Anderson or his lawyer, Hugh Lang) because Whitaker really feels like a person who doesn’t play well with others, even though he’s a very sympathetic man. One person he does play well with is Harling Mays (John Goodman), his cousin and sometimes drug dealer. Harling is not present in the film for an extremely long time, but when he is, he really steals the show with his comic relief, and no one else could play this role as well as John Goodman accomplishes. He is just the best, and only, man for the job.
The sound is great and the performances are great. Everything about this drama is just solid, because it is so profound and is very enjoyable. There is a load of emotional content here, and one heck of a suspenseful scene at the beginning of the feature. For those who find the concept of addiction fascinating, will enjoy this even more. Everyone does a superb job on this project, and if Denzel Washington doesn’t get nominated for the Oscar for Best Leading Actor, I’ll get drunk, fly a plane, and crash it.