Released: Friday, November 2, 2012
I think I just fixed my fear of flying. I saw this movie Saturday afternoon. I gained valuable insight into the flight time life of your, I guess, not-so-typical commercial jet pilot, and I also learned that there are worse things that could happen to you should you be involved in a horrific plane crash like the one portrayed in Flight, a brilliant and tightly-shot production from Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away).
Its release almost certainly is being overshadowed by other pictures coming out at this moment. To name a few: Seven Psychopaths, Cloud Atlas, Wreck-It Ralph. The Man With the Iron Fists, Chasing Mavericks. Tucked in between all these is a great film whose emotional lows and highs will likely lead to some Academy Awards. Well, first off, it stars an Academy Award winner — Denzel Washington, as the veteran pilot Whip Whitaker. And with an award-winning director — Robert Zemeckis — at the helm, Flight ends up becoming a great combination of very good acting and convincing special effects, the likes of which will probably make people even more fearful of flying.
And the even bigger kicker is this film’s plot has as much to do with flying as James Cameron’s Titanic had with the cerulean blue of the North Atlantic.
Sure, we get the flight at the beginning — your typical shot of a tightly-packed second-class cabin. Oh, wait. That’s not typical. Even if the moments in the plane were short-lived, they felt real — turning quickly to horrifying when things start to go wrong — which was almost from the take-off. Rough weather begins pounding our airline and within minutes Whitaker finds that, despite his BAC being a little higher than most self-respecting pilots who have graduated up the tiers of aviation training, he has to make some dramatic aerial maneuvers to get the passengers to smoother, safer air. His training and ability to make snap decisions save all but six souls of a total 102 when he is forced to crash land the plane in an open field. That’s only after righting the plane having inverted it to avoid a full-on head-dive to certain death.
Once this scene has passed, the audience wakes up in a South Atlanta area hospital along with a beaten up Whitaker. What ensues concerns itself less with the act of flying than with the man behind the aviators and dark blue suit. What Zemeckis pulls off is an insightful yet troubling character study into one of Washington’s best roles yet.
It becomes more and more apparent that despite his skills in the sky, his personal issues ground him somewhat in the face of reality. He is a drunk. A drug-addict. A brilliant liar with an innocent face.
The days and weeks following the crash Whitaker, as we would expect, earns a high profile in the media and it becomes more and more difficult for him to separate that which he had gone through from his own private affairs, one of which he would not acknowledge to be the whole drinking thing. As he picks up another bottle, he shuffles through an old farm house that was once his fathers before he passed away, which Whitaker now uses to find some sense of peace in the midst of a thorough investigation from the NTSB, a routine following any sort of disaster in the field of aerospace engineering.
Unfortunately, the circumstances are nothing if not extraordinary surrounding this event. As the movie unravels Whitaker takes steps further and further back against his own fight to prove innocence in a case developing out of that investigation. Don Cheadle steps in as Hugh Lang, attorney. Sharp, dedicated and willing, apparently, to bend some truths, Lang rides the surging wave of Whitaker’s emotional response to his plight for as long as he can bare. And to give Lang some credit, Whitaker, sixty minutes into the affair, is nothing like the man we were enthralled by in the first ten or twenty. He loses it.
And I bought it all — hook, line and sinker: the fragility of the human character, unwinding like frail fabric off the spool during the last half of Flight.
Alongside the strong performances led by Washington and Cheadle, we are treated to a silly John Goodman as Whitaker’s long-time friend and drug supply, Harling Mays. Had it not been for him and the “veal” run he went on, it is worthwhile to venture the guess that Whitaker’s self-destructive moments may not have catapulted to such a degree, but then, no one has control of themselves except themselves. Whitaker learns this the hardest way of all.
Recommendation: Flight, though probably not a good one to see if you’re opposed to flying, is a movie perhaps best kept a “secret” (as secretive as a film can be with a man like Denzel Washington dominating the screen), and I felt myself secretly smiling that I was neither in a theater for Cloud Atlas, nor Argo. Hey, those are going to be great pieces, too. But give this one a chance as well. It takes off quickly.
Running Time: 138 minutes
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