‘Flight’ Movie Review – One Wild Ride
Okay, that title will hopefully be my only flying pun. Robert Zemeckis’ Flight hits theaters this weekend, and it’s a tale that combines life, death, substance abuse, and God. Among everything though, control seems to be the main component behind Flight. When Denzel Washington controls things, the movie is pretty riveting…even when it becomes woefully heavy-handed.
Following a couple nights (or years) of bingeing, Whip Whitaker (Washington) takes control of a plane carrying 102 passengers for a short jump flight from Orlando to Atlanta. The flight is doomed from the beginning, though, and it’s really no secret what happens in the ensuing chaos. When the plane inevitably hits the Georgian countryside, the truth splits in two directions, putting Whip’s life (and character) on the hot seat. Is he the hero that miraculously saved a ton of lives (he’s cleverly named after the real life hero Sully Sullenberger) or the sad drunk that betrayed the public?
It’s these grey questions that storytelling – in whichever form – routinely tackles. No matter where you personally range on the scale of good vs. evil, everyone can agree there are cases that fall between the extremes. It makes rooting for these “bad” characters such an interesting experience. Look no further than Washington’s own filmography for more examples, including the wrenching John Q.
With the primary focus on Whitaker’s life, Washington is present on-screen virtually the entire time. Besides some cutaway shots of his soon-to-be new interest, Nichole (Kelly Reilly), Washington is shown from pretty much every angle. And he nails the performance in a way I haven’t seen from him recently. It’s a cinch for Washington to gobble up easier roles (i.e. “good guy” characters), but some of his more memorable turns have come as an ambiguous character. Add Flight to this list.
Other supporting roles include John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo.
While Washington acts the hell out of the role, it’ll be interesting to see how people respond to the actual character. I tend to error on the side of the bad guy (what does this say about me?), even rooting for deplorable characters such as Breaking Bad’s Walter White. However, even I actively rooted against Whitaker.
I think it boils down to the presentation, because Flight is manipulative by nature. It’s trying to blur the lines a little too much, which makes the movie tiring. It’s taxing going between the ups-and-downs. Add in the runtime (139 minutes) and it probably took a few too many mood changes…some of which are completely out of exploit.
This can be said about the “message,” too – or however you take the message. It’s pretty easy to tell the film has a stance on substance abuse (mostly alcohol), but it’s not quite subtle enough. It comes off very preachy, and the same could be said about the religious undertones.
This’ll change from person to person, and I’m not about to tell you how you should feel. The dichotomy, though, is worth noting, because it simply won’t work for everyone.
Without even taking into account the one great action sequence, Flight isn’t quite as love-it-or-hate-it compared to other movies, but it sure does have a heavy hand. It would’ve been a little less noticeable if the movie hadn’t gone so long, but I also can’t fault the filmmakers for including every Denzel Washington scene.
This sure-to-be-nominated performance is worth the ticket price alone.
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