Published on July 23rd, 2013 | by Allan Brown2
Movie Review: Flight (2013)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writer: John Gatins
Cast: Denzel Washington, Nadine Velazquez, Don Cheadle
Plot: A commercial airline pilot rescues a flight from crashing, but during the investigation a darker personal secret is revealed about the hero captain.
Since the mid 1980s director ‘Robert Zemeckis’ has delighted us with some of the most cherished and iconic movies and characters ever to be committed to celluloid. From Doc Brown and Marty McFly in Back to the Future to the Oscar winning Forrest Gump, the director with his movies has ultimately defined a generation.
There is no doubt that ‘Zemeckis’ is a blockbuster director. His signature style has always displayed a perfect balance of the blockbuster thematic but what sets him aside from the rest is his ability to blend humour, high concept adventure, action and cutting edge special-effects anchored with a real human story.
In 2004 ‘Zemeckis’ decided to go a different route from his previous films and push the envelope of performance-capture technology. The Polar Express would be the first fully animated movie to encompass this relatively new technology within every frame. The experience and freedom this gave the director ultimately allowing him to create whatever he envisaged without the restrictions of spiralling budgets or the worry of having missed a shot or used the wrong camera angle was all but absent due to the fact that this could now all be done in post production on computer. This new freedom inspired the director to go on to create and direct Beowulf in 2007 followed by A Christmas Carol in 2009. Now after 13 long years away see’s director ‘Robert Zemeckis’ return to the physical world for his first live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away, so as you can imagine excitement and expectations are at an all time high.
That film is Flight starring Oscar winner ‘Denzel Washington’ as airline Pilot Whip Whitaker. This entirely fictional movie tells the story of the miraculous landing of a commercial Jet after a mechanical failure sends it plummeting to the ground. Only due to Captain Whitakers commanding expertise and experience is certain disaster avoided. He is hailed as a national hero but as revelations start to surface about his personal life Whitaker finds himself quickly becoming entangled in the red tape of lawsuits, policy and moral ambiguity leaving him more an anti-hero than a national saviour.
The movies marketing campaign is ultimately pushing the picture as an action based thriller and emotional character piece. This however is not strictly the case; instead what is presented is more an introspective look at a man’s battle with substance abuse more than anything else (despite the impressive crash sequence).
‘Denzel Washington’ who never fails to deliver expertly conveys with power both the literal and mental destruction of Whip. However the central role of this protagonist is an egotistical, reckless, self-centred, alcoholic, drug addict who the audience will no doubt find redeemable qualities hard to find. This ultimately leaves the character hard to back, fight for or even remotely likeable.
The movie also has issues with pacing and despite being overlong and slow its true crime is allowing the story to go over the same material again and again killing any momentum gained.
The supporting cast all do a good job despite some of the characters feeling a little out of place with regards to the tone of the film. We have Harling Mays (John Goodman) who offers a comedic if a little cartoonish portray of Whip’s go to guy. He offers personal destruction which is one side of the Whips two way road that faces him, the other is by ex junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly) who offers Whip the chance of love, personal salvation an escape and the chance of a new life. These interesting themes are never fleshed out or ever fully explored and sadly fall away without further mention. ‘Don Cheadle’ and ‘Bruce Greenwood’ also give reasonable performances with the material they are given but never really permitted the time to build any real substance to their characters.
Summary: Flight is by no means a bad movie but despite a strong central performance the picture is ultimately uninspiring and un-affecting. And what of its final message, it remains muddy and unclear what it is trying to say in its 138 minute runtime.