Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Flight (Robert Zemeckis, 2012)

Just when you thought that Robert Zemeckis’ (Forrest Gump) return to live action cinema (after a decade of performance capture animated features) was going to be a disaster film, it takes a surprising turn following a terrifying and thrilling flight sequence, delving into a complex character study about an alcoholic pilot struggling to redeem himself to match those of his credited professional heroics.

An excellent Denzel Washington (a performance thoroughly deserving of his recent Oscar nomination and amongst his career best work) stars as Whip Whitaker, a Navy veteran and airline pilot who we first meet waking up from a big night with a young naked woman in his bed. A tense phone call reveals he has an ex-wife and a misguided son, and the state of the room suggests they are likely battling hangovers. Whip and the young woman (Nadine Velasquez) – revealed to be one of his flight attendants – have a flight in less than two hours and to kick the hangover he does a line of cocaine.

During the short flight between Orlando and Atlanta – on which we witness Whip indulge in further beverages – he encounters severe turbulence before the plane begins to seriously malfunction and fall apart. Taking advantage of unexpected adrenalin he, with the assistance of his co-pilot and one of his attendants, manages to invert the plane to stop a nosedive, and then maneuver the gliding airline into a crash land in an empty field. His actions are miraculous and though six people lose their lives, the plane’s faults should have resulted in the death of everyone on board. His heroics are soon challenged when hospital blood tests reveal his intoxication, and with answers sought after an investigation ensues seeking to uncover the cause of the accident. He gains support from his forgiving friend (Bruce Greenwood) and confident and capable attorney (Don Cheadle), while succumbing to his demons to a destructive extreme.

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