Flight (2012) – Review

2 Stars

Denzel Washington delivers a four star top-notch performance, that unfortunately is buried in a two star film. This is a case an actor outshining and elevating the material, but even with the help of the mighty Denzel, Flight still buckles under its own self-importance. The trailers and title may play up the fact that the story is about a captain who has landed an aircraft safely during a mechanical disaster, but in reality this is a film about addiction and denial. Neither of which are as compelling as the scenes involving the airborne catastrophe and legal repercussions of that fateful flight. Once it becomes apparent, at about the 40 minute mark, that Flight can’t live up to its promise or premise, the whole thing comes crashing down.

Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a raging alcoholic and coke-head whose life is a series of hangovers and emotional lows, until the day he safely lands a malfunctioning plane. In the crash four passengers and two crews members are killed, including a latina stewardess whom Whip was parting alongside the evening before. The media present Whip as a hero savior, but in reality his blood-alcohol level was three times beyond the legal limit to drive a car, let alone guide 102 souls from Florida to Atlanta in a rainstorm. The government agency responsible for investigating the possible causes, is alarmed at the toxicology report that suggests Captain Whitaker was both drunk and high during the time of take-off.

Integrated along with the compelling crash and its legal ramifications, is a useless sub-plot concerning a recovering heroin addict, who comes to live with Whip on his country property as he attempts to avoid media attention. This character and the ensuing relationship between former junkie and current addict, are miscalculated and offer nothing of value to the main narrative through line. To illustrate my point, this character exits the screenplay at the end of the second act, and she is not missed. With a running time of two hours and twenty minutes, exercising this plot strand would have resulted in a shorter, more powerful experience. When Flight is dealing with matters of the tragic incident, graphically depicted, and resulting fallout it really soars. Another re-write could have resulted in a new-era classic, instead its a missed opportunity featuring an actor willing to commit totally to a screenplay (in its present form) not worth the effort. Though John Goodman injects a shot of energy into the film playing a character that resembles a drug-addled version of his role in The Big Lebowski.

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman

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