Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Film Review: Flight

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood
Runtime: 138 minutes

Now boarding is Flight, an entertaining film that examines the fatally flawed character of Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), an alcoholic pilot who is proclaimed a hero before his life plunges into an uncontrollable tailspin. 

Flight is an all-round good movie; from the acting, scripting and visual effects, everything comes together to put together a well-rounded and enjoyable film. It isn't perfect, but neither is its focus. The films' tale of not being a perfect person, of having weaknesses and flaws and of the desire to find redemption is a powerful one. It is carried across not one but several of its characters, the strongest being that of Captain Whitaker, our protagonist.

After saving the lives of 100 people in a sickening plane crash (more on that later), Denzel Washington's Captain Whitaker as heralded as a hero who 'will never pay for another drink as long as he lives'. His only problem is, is that had spent the night prior to the flight drinking heavily and taking cocaine. Regardless of how many lives he saved, Whitaker still faces prison time for his recklessness.

This notion of questionable morals and the ensuing dilemma is what is at the heart of Flight. Director Robert Zemeckis extracts some brilliant performances from his cast, Washington being particularly impressive as his character rapidly begins to crash and burn. Lurching and stumbling across screen, Washington's flawed Captain Whitaker is a hard character to side with at first as he is so irresponsible and arrogant. This changes over time however as he steadily mends his ways and owns up to responsibility.

Both thrilling and sickening to watch, the film's stomach churning set-piece that sees Flight 227 fall apart and out of the sky is a real triumph of visual effects. It'll most certainly have squeamish audience members reaching for the sick bag.

From that point on however, Flight does begin to drag a little, the subsequent character study on both Captain Whitaker's alcohol addiction and Nicole's (Kelly Reilly) heroin addiction spread thin across the 138 minute run-time. I felt myself wishing that things would hurry themselves up,  but instead Zemeckis pulls back on the throttle and slows things down.

When things do finally come to a close (in a neat and satisfying way I might add) at the end, you can't help but wish that Zemeckis has gotten there a little quicker. This slow pacing isn't detrimental enough to have you reclining your seat and reaching for the flight pillows however, just a slight criticism after such a pulsating and heart-quickening opening half an hour.

Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood are both fantastic as Captain Whitaker's legal team but a side plot concerning Whitaker's wife and son is underplayed.

On the whole, Flight is an enjoyable, entertaining and fascinating ride that is only disturbed by small batches of turbulence. It's an emotional character study on addiction as well as moral ambiguity and responsibility. A thrilling opening and satisfying conclusion more than make for a slightly padded middle third.

I give Flight: 7/10

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