Robert Zemeckis brings us his first live action film since Cast Away (2000) opting, yet again, for a plane crash aftermath scenario, but sadly neglecting to include any heart-warming volleyballs (next time Wilson, next time).
Flight tells of a talented and seasoned pilot, Whip Whitaker (played by a chubby Denzel Washington), who pulls a miraculous stunt to help force-land a plane after a mid-air crisis. What a hero; shame he was drunk and snorting drugs only moments before his flight…
The toxicology report taken after the crash reveals his condition and the saga begins!
The trailer for this film does not even begin to hint at the dark place this film goes to. I was expecting a heroic story of a misunderstood pilot who mistakenly drank the night prior to his flight and was being falsely accused. How wrong I was.
Flight is a study of addiction at it’s worst. But don’t expect to sit there feeling sorry for old Denzel; we are positioned not to sympathise, but to feel the same betrayal and frustration that may be experienced by his loved ones as we are forced to watch his descent into utter ruin.
The film is difficult to watch, it is incredibly exasperating and has you shaking your head and moaning repeatedly. Whilst at first you want your leading man to ‘get off’, as the story continues you can’t help but have part of you want this guy to take the fall.
As such, this film is hardly what you’d call enjoyable. Is it a good film? Yes! In fact as it sparks such an emotional response, it could be argued to be a great film. The acting is superb; Denzel is completely believable and walks the fine line between likeable daredevil and despised drunk with ease.
A highlight is certainly the plane crash sequence. Zemeckis does plane crash like a pro (was he an airline hostess in a past life I wonder? Hmmm….) His fast and startling plane crash in Cast Away has remained steadfast in my memory for 12 years as one of the best on screen, yet here he bests himself, bumping Tom Hanks and his band aid off the top spot.
The sequence, unlike most film plane crashes, is not over in a flash. It does not cut away half way through. We are forced to endure the entire painstaking process from initial mechanical failure, right through the prolonged struggle to regain control, up until the plane hits the ground. It is intense stuff. Brilliantly done – and successfully frightening enough to keep me off a plane for a long while.
The soundtrack is solid, as is the supporting cast with John Goodman stealing scenes as Denzel’s zaney but loveable dealer.
Summing up, it’s a tricky film to rate. Trying to find the balance between judging a film by how enjoyable it is to consume, and how well it is made is always a challenge – but this one is particularly difficult. Would I recommend it to others? Probably not: You feel like drowning yourself in a tub of popcorn within the first 30 minutes (and in the final 30 minutes you feel like drowning Denzel). But the film is so well acted, and is boldly realistic in it’s depiction of addiction, thus it certainly demands respect.
I rate it 7 out of 10 stars.