Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Tamara Tunie, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez and Brian Geraghty
Robert Zemeckis' latest film is titled Flight, which is his first live-action movie since Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, both of which came out in 2000. I can't say that i am a big fan of him but still, his motion capture features always have the heart but they are imperfect while his live-action features are usually the driving vehicles for actors only. Denzel Washington got the deserved praise for his best performance in ages while personally, the movie wasn't what i was hoping it would be. This is the story of Airline captain William "Whip" Whitaker whose addiction is going to cost a lot of people their lives and maybe his as well. Flight begins with Whip waking up in a hotel room with a flight attendant and it is implied that they had sex, were full on drunk and slept quite a little. He has a whole bloody plane to fly but he doesn't care much or take it all too seriously. Before boarding the plane, he uses cocaine, while flying the plane, he mixes vodka with the orange juice and takes a nap while his co-pilot flies the plane. Zemeckis introduces us to our anti-hero in such a way that we already start questioning his actions and intentions and since we already know what is going to happen, we start developing negative feelings for the character. I will surely applaud the director for establishing so much even before the movie actually begins. This movie is also Zemeckis' first R-rated movie since "Used Cars". The highlight moment of this film and one of the most fascinating sequences that i have seen recently, comes during the plane crash. The plane goes into a steep dive, its out of control and we get to experience the terror in such a realistic and jolting way. In that moment of extreme pressure, Whip uses his skills with a cool mind and rolls the plane completely inverted to bring it out of the dive. The plane then crash lands in a field. He wakes up to find himself in a hospital where he is informed by his friend that 6 of the 102 people died, his heroism indeed saved many lives.
Flight turns into a completely different movie after that, a different tone and plot. Flight isn't a story about heroism, Whip isn't a hero. He showed a moment of strength in the air, he turns his life upside down (just like the plane) after he lands back on the ground. As much as this concept looked so intriguing in the start, once it begins the problems comes with it. I really have no idea how to talk about it or feel but its such an interesting idea wasted. An important character in the movie is Nicole (Reilly). Whip first meets her when he sneaks out to smoke in the hospital's stairwell. She herself is a drug addict but recovering and determined to get over it. Nicole and Whip develops a relationship when he is at his late father's farm trying to avoid the media. She is drawn to him but can't really be with him because they are going in the opposite direction. Whips' alcohol obsession seems to be getting worse day by day. The tests done while he was unconscious shows him being intoxicated and can go to jail for it. The hearing is coming near but his demons are taking over him faster than they ever did. There is one hell of a scene in the movie where Whip in a motel room sees only non-alcoholic beverages in his mini-refrigerator. His attorney friends have made sure of it. But then he sees an open door to his adjacent room and finds alcohol there. He takes a bottle out, keeps it on the top but goes away. The camera still focusing on that bottle, we get a sense that this scene will cut away any moment because Whip is gone and he wont drink. But in a snap, he comes back and takes away the bottle. I still see Flight as a more mature film than many others in the recent years to deal with such subject. Alcoholism, drug addiction and its impact on one's life and the people around them have been done quite a lot of times. The intention here is clear even if its approach isn't quite that great. The movie is written in such a way that it gives an impression of a typical "caution" tale for people against alcohol. I kept on watching the movie, hoping that somehow the movie would rescue itself from the blunder i see it going towards but it doesn't. Flight becomes extremely heavy-handed and out of touch with its own intentions as it starts pandering here and there looking for something to hold on to. I am surprised that this movie was nominated for screenplay Oscar because its so much at fault. There comes a time in the movie where the only thing that is left is Washington and his performance and the movie itself completely gives up on itself and lets him do all the work and deliver what it couldn't. A rather preachy film that starts in such a mature way that you hoped it would delve deep into the problems it was so determined to in the beginning. An After-school Special if you will.
If Flight was trying to be a redemption tale of a fallen hero, it never really soars that way. If its about the choices we make is what defines us and brings forth what we get, that i can see. If its about faith amid the broken and crumbling world around you and the only way to feel yourself is to come clean of your wrongdoings, that i can see. Flight is filled with broken people. Broken because of their own self-destructive reasons, broken because that is the life they got, broken because they tried to get away from their broken life and ended up being even more broke. It circles around in that and loses the track completely. The actual case and hearing plot for Whip is somehow sidelined and portrayed in a very careless manner opposite to its hopeless clinging on the things that i have mentioned previously to build up towards a cheesy end. The ending itself is a typical Hollywood ending that i haven't quite seen for a while, we got to see it at last. If i have to sum up my problems with this movie in short, its a movie with little good moments and lots of unnecessary pondering that adds up to an uneven and tiresome experience with the highlight being Washington's brilliant performance. Denzel Washington is the star here. How he manages to portray his character with such an ability to go down with him at his worst but still manage to create that sense of sympathy for a declining human being for their own good. Realistic performance to the very core and his presence strangely feels out of place to whatever the movie itself is trying to cook. There is Kelly Reilly whose performance is somewhat good in a role that is hastily written. Her character is suppose to be there only for Whip so he could see into her and maybe get a hold of himself. She is suppose to act like a mirror. None of the other characters are actually drawn except for Whip which was intended. There is somewhat of a cool "dude" like presence given by John Goodman. Robert Zemeckis, as much as i could praise him for trying and making an effort to make something different, i don't think he was ready for it. Cool visual effects in the beginning, Zemeckis still has it in him for pulling off those kind of scenes with perfection but a mature drama? I don't think so. But it ultimately comes down to the writing which loses its steam when you least expect it to do so.