Flight (3 1/2 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, Cast Away)
Written by John Gatins (Summer Catch, Coach Carter, Real Steel)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheedle, and John Goodman
Daylight savings almost prevented me from going to the movies tonight. A fun tip for people checking movie times, if you are going to a Regal (I am assuming AMC does the same thing) Fandango is the only accurate website/app to use for looking at move times. My intention was to see Cloud Atlas today, but because of how long the film is I ended up seeing Flight instead. Flight ended up being a bumpy ride, piloted by solid direction from Robert Zemeckis and a brilliant performance from Denzel Washington.
Flight, centers Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington) a pilot who ends up helping land a plane as it appears the plane is going to crash and kill everyone. Instead of the plane crashing Whip miraculously glides the plane in saving the majority of the passengers on board. The main problem in the after effects is the fact that Whip was drunk and high while flying the plane.
The film centers around Whip's addiction and the role it has played throughout his entire life. As the story progresses there is no clear point that explains what happened to him to cause his drinking, but the root of the evil in his life is not the problem the main point is that he has a problem. Whip has two face two large problems in the film the fact that he has an addiction and the fact that he was drunk and high while flying the plane. With some casualties on the flight Whip faces prison time.
In his post crash world Whip meets a woman named Nicole (Kelly Reilly) in the hospital. Nicole is an addict as well, and we see her at the beginning of her journey to help curb her problem. While I like the concept of the parallel story, and the way these two interact, Nicole's journey and her interaction with Whip is often left with little substance. Even Nicole's introduction feels awkward and clunky. This lack of depth, and poor character narrative speaks to one of the problems with the film, the script.
This is John Gatin's first time handling material that is this deep, his past films may have some overcoming adversity themes. Gatins himself has talked openly about his own struggles with alcoholism, and I think he has used his own experiences to color the tale. Using real life experiences can be powerful to help personalize a script, but it can also bog things down with cliches. I think the running thematic connection for Gatins is the power of AA, and while this can work it does not always add the to story.
Gatin's script is by no means bad, but there is a need for him to work on tightening things up, and avoiding the ABC after school special feel. There are also constant mentions of spirituality/faith and "acts of God," but I am not sure that this all connected in the to Whip's journey. The script does a good job talking about ethics more than this "Act of God" concept, and should have focused solely on doing the right thing without playing the religion card. As Washington is faced with one tough decision there is this brilliant direction which focuses on him and his characters pain, which he has been fighting throughout the whole film.
That scene with Denzel at the end of the film, along with the brilliant flight sequence in the beginning where the plane is going down is the work of director Robert Zemeckis. Zemeckis has left the world of live action films for twelve years working on stop motion films (like the scary Polar Express), I am grateful to have him back in the live action world. Flight, is not a typical Zemeckis like film; he challenges himself to step outside of the box, and work with the solid aspects of the script, and the brilliant acting from Denzel Washington to let the film speak for itself.
Washington character Whip is like Hanks in Cast Away; he is piloting his journey (basically solo) as he battles his demons, throughout his experiences after this accident. There were times when I hated this character, and like Whip's attorney Hugh Lang (Cheedle) said he was basically an arrogant asshole. There is something different about this journey, something typical, but different (another solid part of the script) Whip is an anti-hero, someone you should be rooting for, but you can't because you know his bender put people's lives at risk. Washington's performance is one of his best in years, and proves he has the chops when given the right role.
Washington's performance saves the film, and even though there is solid word from the the other actors like Cheedles stodgy lawyer, and Goodman's scene stealing drug/alcohol buddy. You never lose site of Denzel and the way he owns this role, and how magnetic he is playing this character. The film has bumpy, and sometimes preachy moments, but they never overshadow Washington.