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“Flight” – Review (POSITIVE)

November 4, 2012

It’s been 12 years since Robert Zemeckis directed a live-action drama, “Cast Away” was that very film, I was 12 when I saw that movie in theaters, to this day it’s in my top twenty favorite films list (a list I’ll share another time). During this 12 year absents, Zemeckis directed three animated performance capture films, they were ok, but not the films he should be making. “Flight” is a return to full form for Zemeckis, returning to the dramatic territory that matches up the calibar of “Cast Away” or “Forrest Gump”. This film teams Zemeckis up for the first time with two time Oscar winner Denzel Washington, in a role many people will be talking about for ages.

“Flight” is complicated tale of morals, honesty, self-integrity, and self-reflection on ones faults. Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington), a seasoned airline pilot, who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, it was a 1 in a million shot scenario, saving nearly every soul on board, except for 4 passengers and 2 crew. After the crash, Whip is hailed as a hero, but as more is learned, more questions than answers arise as to who or what was really at fault and what really happened on that plane?

John Gatins’ original screenplay, makes arguably questionable choices in the entire scope of the narrative, that the movie is really about an alcoholic, his addictions on drugs, and his overall abundence to keep it together in a time of media crisis where all eyes are on him. Whip is NOT a likeable character, the beginning scene makes it very clear that this is a guy with very little moral judgement; sleeps with the hot flight attendant, drinks even already hung over, and does a line of coke, all within an hour before take-off. The movie challenges it’s audience on how we should look or even overlook the grey areas. YES, Whip saved the plane from a catastrophic demise, the decisions he made to land the plane were certainly unorthdox, to me at least, but it begs the question, without being under the incluence, do you think the scenario would play out the same way?

Arguably this is by far one of Denzel’s finest performances of his career, it’s a challenging role, more so like his antagonist performances in “Training Day”. Denzel has always played the likeable good-guy character, there’s only very few occasions he plays the “Training Day”-type, here he’s playing a pure scumbag, through and through. And I think it’s hard for us to comprehend the performance in a lot of ways because, this just seems like something he’s doing outside his comfort zone, which is a refreshing thing. But, there are these moments where you root for Denzel’s Whip for quitting the booze and drugs and then moments later your hating him for jumping back on.

There’s a particular moment in the film that toys with our emotions so perfectly, it’s near the end of the film in a hotel room, I’m not going to say much, but it justifiable sums up his character in 10 seconds. Washington plays it like the pro that he is, and he’s created a character I think a lot of people can identify with, mainly because the character of Whip isn’t sugar-coated, this is a real character, with real vices, that’s tearing up his life, and there is no such thing as a magical epiphany that will change your life in an instant. The movie plays it for real, and I think that’s what makes the ending so cathartic.

In my opinion, a movie like this must be seen more than once; for it’s brilliant lead and fantastic supporting players (John Goodman notably), the original story, since there’s not many original films out there these days, and the return of an acclaimed director doing what he does best. “Flight” is a movie I can see people having debates over all different aspects, but in the end it’s a film that did it’s job correctly, challenging the viewer.

GRADE: A

Special thanks to Christine Labonté for attending the advance screening and sharing her input

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