Sunday, November 4, 2012

Flight Review

Flight is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and features two of the best performances of the year…and is a veritable return to form for Robert Zemeckis.  I say “return” because I wasn’t the biggest fan of his motion-capture series of films (although I am quite the fan of Beowulf).  With this release, it’s as if he’s throwing down a gauntlet that says “I’m back 100%.”  In fact, Flight is almost the polar (see what I did there?) opposite of his animated films – it is a very mature, adult story that deals with alcoholism, drug addiction, and death.  And nudity.

Indeed, the first scene of the film features full-frontal female nudity.  I have no problem with this, but it was quite a shock to see Zemeckis throw that in right out of the gate.  The nudity and the scene in general serve a dual purpose: to show us that he can still tell adult stories and that our pro/antagonist, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), is a very messed up individual.  Whip is an airline pilot who has a penchant for alcohol, drugs and a very attractive flight attendant.  It is within this very first scene that we’re introduced to all three of these elements that will shape and impact the rest of the film.

See, Whip didn’t sleep at all the night before we’re introduced to him.  He then goes on a 9am flight, still drunk/high from the night before and flies his plane.  Mid-flight, while Whip was napping, the plane begins malfunctioning, resulting in one of the most gripping and intense plane-crash sequences I’ve ever seen, rivaling LOST, The Grey, and Zemeckis’ own Cast Away.   Whip decides to invert the plane.  Yeah, his idea is so crazy that the flight control operates asks him to repeat his statement.  Inverting the plane allows it to stabilize and glide to an empty field where they can land.  Whip successfully lands the plane, losing only six lives of the 100+ passengers and crew, including the flight attendant (Nadine Velazquez) he was romantically involved with.

What follows is a fantastic film revolving around the fallout of the crash, including the discovery of alcohol and cocaine in Whip’s blood after a post-crash toxicology screening and the eventual NTSB investigation.  Whip falls for a recovering drug/alcohol addict (Kelly Reilly), who tries to get him clean (he is almost continuously inebriated during the course of the entire film.  It’s this behavior that almost turns Whip into an antagonist; while I was rooting for him the whole way, his alcoholic tendencies had me questioning my support of him.  No, his abuse issues didn’t cause the plane to crash, but the mere fact that he would fly a plane while drunk/high makes us question his moral code.

Denzel Washington puts in one helluva performance as Whip.  His charisma and charm just flow off the screen.  Whip experiences the gamut of emotions over the course of the film, and Denzel’s performance makes us feel them too.   Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, and Don Cheadle are perfectly cast and complement Denzel’s performance beautifully.  The other real standout is John Goodman’s Harling Mays.  He’s an old friend of Whip’s who happens to be his drug dealer.  He has a relatively small amount of screen time (in just a handful of scenes), but when he shows up in the third act the shenanigans that follow make for one of the most memorable moments in any film this year.  I was literally on my feet with shock (don’t worry, it was just me and a friend in the theater).  Goodman’s had quite the run in the last year, putting in stellar turns in Red State, The Artist, Argo, and now Flight.  Here’s to hoping that this great streak continues in the years to come!

I just really cannot praise this film enough.  From beginning to end I was engaged and entertained.  There really isn’t much more than I can ask from a film.  Welcome back to live action, Mr.  Zemeckis.  If Flight is any indication of what we can expect from his future projects, to say that I am excited would be an understatement.  Please just go see it.

Flight is a brilliant return to live-action for Robert Zemeckis, featuring one of the best performances of the year.

The Bearded Bullet

No comments:

Post a Comment