Thursday, November 15, 2012

FLIGHT (2012)

Written by John Gatins

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. November 4, 2012  6:00PM

Two-time Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington has joined forces with fellow Oscar winner, director, Robert Zemeckis with the fascinating results of this collaboration being "Flight". The film grapples with the heroic effort of a quick-thinking airline pilot who manages to save the lives of most of his passengers after a mechanical problem brings the plane down. However it is his off-duty activities that comes under scrutiny with mounting concern that it may have possibly impaired his judgement on the job

We first meet "Whip" Whitaker (Washington) early one morning in Florida after an alcohol and drug-fueled evening with a lovely member of his flight crew (Nadine Velazquez). Although he is quite an experienced pilot, it's clear that he is in no real condition to fly a plane but after a white powder pick-me-up, "Whip" appears smooth and ready for flight.

With passengers and crew ready to take off to Atlanta, "Whip" is convinced that he's got everyone fooled and under control although his co-pilot, Ken (Brian Geraghty) seems unsure but remains silent. Experiencing extreme turbulence while taking off in a heavy storm, "Whip" shows off his skills getting the plane in to clear skies. After sneaking some liquor and taking a quick nap, "Whip" prepares to land however something goes terribly wrong, which leads to the film's most harrowing sequence, as the plane nosedives uncontrollably back to the surface. With Ken in full-blown panic mode, "Whip" has to make some quick decisions to try getting the plane back in control and slowing it down before crash landing.

"Whip" wakes up in the hospital with relatively minor injuries and greeted by his old friend, Charlie (Bruce Greenwood)  now a rep for the pilot's union. Although there were very few fatalities and he's seen as a hero but now "Whip" is informed that he's under investigation due to a blood test revealing that he was under the influence of narcotics. His lawyer (Don Cheadle) has managed to squash the test during the hearing but "Whip" still must go before the safety board to answer questions about the events. With his career and the possibility of jail time on the line, "Whip" struggles to remain sober before his appearance with the committee while adamantly denying he has a problem with drugs.

This is the first live action film that the director has done since the 2000 Tom Hanks vehicle, "Castaway" as he has spent the last few years experimenting with digital motion-capture that combines the movement of live actors with computer animation. This was utilized on his two holiday films aimed at children, "The Polar Express", and "A Christmas Carol" as well as the more mature action-adventure,"Beowolf". Although the response to the effect has been decidedly mixed, Mr. Zemeckis has not lost his gift of combining a dynamic, visual spectacle with a challenging story of emotional depth and introspection which he certainly brings to "Flight".

The film is helped greatly by the tense, well-crafted script by John Gatins but the greatest strength of "Flight" are the performances.There is no doubt about the amazing talent of Denzel Washington as he has proven film after film without ever delivering a false note. Lately, his last few films, including "Safe House", the box-office hit from earlier this year, has him playing against the noble and compassionate roles that marked the early part of his career as he has gone darker and more complex. He's in fine form here expertly playing a deeply troubled character whose addictions have finally reached the surface and as his life begins to spin further out-of-control, he fights even harder to cover them back up without being willing to actually alter his behavior. The actor has certainly delivered one of his finest performances and one of the best of this year.

Mr. Washington is helped by a terrific supporting cast which includes John Goodman in a showy turn (and taking a fashion cue from Jeff Bridges in "The Big Lebowski") as a jovial, drug dealer who gives a spirited, educational moment as he's called in to whip "Whip" in to shape before his appearance with the board in a way that only a supplier could do. Another standout is Kelly Reilly (another Brit doing a flawless American accent) playing a tender-hearted heroin addict nearly dying of an overdose who happens to be in the hospital at the same time as "Whip". They form an unlikely relationship made more complicated as each are in very different places in their road to recovery. Mr. Cheadle never fails to impress as he re-teams with Mr.Washington for the first time since his breakout role in "Devil In A Blue Dress" and recent Oscar winner, Melissa Leo is quite effective in her brief appearance as the lead investigator at the hearing.

"Flight" is a powerful examination of the moral dilemma facing a society who insist that heroes must be perfect and if they turn out to be flawed, then do they actually still deserve to be celebrated for their bravery? This film expertly takes on that question as it soars with breath-taking thrills, heartfelt emotion and landing with graceful precision.