Film Review: Flight

FlightA naked women walks around a hotel room. A man awakes in a daze before taking a huge line of cocaine. He clearly has his vices. He realises he needs to get ready for work and pulls on his uniform – a pilot’s uniform.

Instantly, from the very first scene, it’s clear that the man in question, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), is going to have a pretty tough time of things. The mix of alcohol, drugs and piloting a plane is never going to end happily and so even when he spectacularly negotiates a crash landing, saving numerous lives, a toxicology report leaves him at the centre of an investigation and facing life in prison.

It should be noted that Flight is not a film about flying. Sure, it has planes, pilots, etc, but it’s not in any way about flying. Swap the plane crash for any other disaster and it’s the exact same film. This is very much a character piece about a man struggling to curb his addiction.

The film’s opening third is suitably impressive. We know that Whit is drunk and high on drugs and yet he’s calmness personified captaining his flight. We also know something is going to go wrong and there’s a real intensity and tenseness about the scenes. However, from that point, the film never really regains this intensity and it focuses solely on Whip trying to deal with his addictions before his life spirals completely out of control. This drop in pace is not a criticism as it is largely handled very well, but some may be left wanting for the thrill of the opening act. Similarly, the film’s climax and denouement are somewhat formulaic and don’t do the rest of the film service, although there are few directions it could have gone to achieve a satisfying conclusion. There’s not much here that hasn’t been done before or that comes as a surprise but it’s still handled effectively enough.

What does really helps the film tick along is Denzel. His performance as Whip is superb and really makes you toil with yourself whether to support or abhor him. Washington is more renowned for his action roles but it’s performances like this that show he has much more in his locker. His supporting cast, however, aren’t quite on the same level. His tumultuous romance with fellow addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly) feels rushed and her character underdeveloped, whilst Harling (John Goodman), Whit’s dealer friend, feels ridiculously out of place and far too over the top. This is a film about Whit, though, so it’s only expected that other characters may be marginalised slightly.

Flight marks director Robert Zemeckis’ first live action film since 2000’s Castaway and proves that this is where his talents lie. During that time he directed the animated trio of The Polar Express, Beowulf,Β and A Christmas Carol but none of them really had the impact his previous work did. Flight, however, is very much a return to form, or at least a step in that direction.

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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32 thoughts on “Film Review: Flight

  1. Tyson Carter says:

    Nice write up as always buddy!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    All thanks to Denzel and his acting prowess, the guy is able to make this material more than just another soapy, melodrama. However, the script does take over and turn everything into a very conventional-way as well, but Denzel is always there to save the day. Nice review.

  3. Mark Walker says:

    Great review Chris. I agree wholeheartedly with you here and we both share many similar points in our reviews. I noticed the underwritten supporting characters and conventional ending but I didn’t care. This wa about one man and one man only.

    • I didn’t mind those things either to be honest, I just felt some of the supporting characters were a bit weak but like you say, it was all about him so that’s forgivable. I could have done without the bit with his son at the end, that upped the cheese factor a little too far but again, it didn’t really take much away from the film at all.

  4. filmhipster says:

    Glad you noticed, I felt John Goodman’s role was way out in left field as well, disturbed the entire flow of the film at the end. Other than that I really enjoyed it.

  5. Becki Jolly says:

    Great review. I really agree that Denzel has never been better. I watched this while on the reverse flight from Atlanta to Orlando so it was particularly intense!

  6. claratsi says:

    Nice review. I reviewed the other week and I loved it. I think Denzel is better than DDL in Lincoln which I know seems foolish and isn’t getting me much agreement out there but it resonated the more with me. #lonevoicefordenzel

    • Cheers mate. I’m not sure i’d go as far as to say he was better than DDL but he was excellent and deserved his Oscar nomination for sure. He definitely made the film; it simply wouldn’t have been the same film without him, he was superb.

  7. Yeah, Chris I think I’m right there with you on this one. I liked it well enough, mainly because of Denzel, but I had some issues with the way things went down in the final third. You’re definitely right, the movie’s first act is kind of awesome (with the exception of the introduction of his future girlfriend) and the movie only loses steam slowly afterwards…

    • Totally, I’m not sure i’d have liked this as much if it wasn’t for Denzel, he really nailed it. Great casting to get him on board. I think a lot of people will feel that the film peaked in the first third, it was definitely the most engaging part of the film, although I thought it held up fairly well throughout. The ending was a little weak and conventional but I still think it worked, just perhaps stopped it from going up to the next level.

  8. Popcorn Nights says:

    Nice one Chris. Haven’t seen it but enjoyed your write up. I’m a fan of Denzel Washington – worth sitting through an average film if he’s in it. This sounds decent though, I’ll definitely check it out in the future.

  9. ruth says:

    This sounds like a role tailor-made for Denzel Washington. He’s always so great to watch as an anti-hero or sympathetic flawed character. Great review Chris!

  10. Great review. yep, it def was Denzel that carries it for sure.

  11. sati says:

    Nice review! I loved Washington’s performance but the film was very hit and miss for me, I thought they should have focused on his alcoholism and the issue that him indulging it may have led him to actually let the plane land successfully. I did love the last 30 minutes though

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ You’re right, they didn’t really ask the question as to whether he was to blame or not. It was more a case of whether it was wrong for him to drink if it was actually the drink that helped him focus enough to crash land the plane. I thought it worked pretty well as it was but that would have been a pretty interesting take on it.

  12. I disagree with this 100%. I couldn’t bear this film, the reasons for this I explain in my recent review on politicoid, if you fancy a read. I just can’t bear the overdone sermonizing…

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