Movie Title: Flight [MA]
Director : Robert Zemeckis
Running Time : 138 minutes
Release Date : In Cinemas Now
When I first sat down in the cinema, I thought I would be watching another good guy vs adversity movie in which Denzel ultimately triumphs. I had only seen the trailer and knew nothing else about this movie, but being a Denzel and Director Robert Zemeckis ( Cast Away, Contact & the Back to the Future trilogy) fan, I was in. You can imagine my surprise when from the opening scene, it appeared Denzel was not a good guy…..well not entirely anyway.
This movie opens with Flight Attendant Katerina ( Velazquez) waking in a hotel room, obviously a stopover and surrounded by the remnants of a big night. She wakes airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Oscar nominated for this role Washington) who not only finishes some stale alcohol but then proceeds to snort a huge line of coke. A few minutes later, Whitaker is strutting purposefully down the hotel hallway looking every inch the handsome, self assured, experienced, in-control dream pilot we all hope is in the cockpit when we board a flight. And he is all of those things.
He is also a functioning alcoholic.
Whitaker boards the plane and immediately takes control. The flight leaves in very bad weather and a major emergency soon eventuates. This is where things get really interesting.
The next 10 or 15 minutes of the movie are completely enthralling. We see a plane begin to lose functions one by one….oh this is a bad, bad day …..and it would seem like death for all aboard is imminent. But the highly capable Whitaker employs some manoeuvers that are mind bending and look amazing on the screen. The scenes are tense, seeminly authentic, moving, make you hold you breath incredible. The result is the plane does crash land but only 6 people die.
As Whitaker wakes in the hospital, the crash investigator types are there to start proceedings. The pilot is a hero but they have a job to do. Here we are introduced to Charlie Anderson (Greenwood), Whitakers long time friend, colleague and champion. He will play a major role in the ensuing drama and remains unquestioningly if not pragmatically loyal to the errant Whitaker. We also meet Whitaker’s drug dealer/friend Harling Mays (Goodman), a man who for good or bad, knows his stuff and knows how to help Whitaker when he most needs it.
In the hospital, Whitaker meets the gorgeous but damaged addict Nicole (Reilly) and relationship develops. She has dark demons of her own and together, this could have been such an important part of this story. But alas, the writers and Director never give Nicole the attention she deserves. She does, however, provide calm for Whitaker and seems to bring out long suppressed emotions and feelings that he himself seems quite surprised to see re-emerge.
As the crash investigation continues, even knowing what we know, I still wanted Whitaker to triumph. He valiantly tries to overcome his alcoholism but the lure proves too much for him time and again. Each time he has a decision to make, I held my breath and was truly disappointed when the demon won. So too were the rest of my fellow cinema patrons judging by the collective sighs and mutterings that echoed my own.
The crash investigation itself was remarkable. I found these parts of the movie fascinating as we watched the puzzle pieces all put back together. The lawyer Hugh Lang (Cheadle) was particularly interesting as he did all he could for his client, sometimes against seemingly insurmountable odds. The underlying fact, that we are aware of from the begining of the movie, is this was indeed a case of equipment failure. It just needed to be proven. The fact that Whitaker may have been intoxicated during the flight sometimes seems almost secondary.
This is a movie not about a plane crash and who was to blame, but about human frailty and suffering. It is about redemption, humanity, love, compassion, forgiveness….all the things that make for a great drama. Denzel was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this role. Was it warranted? Of course. Denzel is one of the finest actors of our generation and I loved seeing him in the role of heroic anti hero. This a good movie but not a great one. The ending was particularly surprising and seemed like a cop out to me. I would like to have seen the resolve the movie promised continue through to the end but it was not to be. But it is still a movie well worth seeing.
If you are at all interested in the ‘can that really happen in real life’ aspect of the in flight piloting, try here for some insight into not only this movie but Hollywood’s take on airplane disasters in general. A great read on it’s own.