NYFF Review: Flight
After a long experimentation with motion-capture adventures, Robert Zemeckis finally returns to live-action film with Flight. While it’s hard to make the argument that this a triumphant comeback, Flight nevertheless knows what buttons to push in order to appease the audience, and please the critics.
After a long night of sex, booze and drugs, Captain Whip heroically lands a malfunctioning aircraft mid-flight, saving ninety-six souls on-board. Though initially commended for his poise and intellect, Whip finds his celebrated performance short lived as legal consequences emerge.
The image we initially receive of captain Whip is that of a suave, ‘cool’ pilot that can give Tom Cruise’s Maverick a run for his money. Sure, he has marital problems on the side, but who doesn’t these days. Soon after one intense crash scene, thrilling to its inevitable end, we start to delve into the captain’s personal life. Suddenly, our admiration for this hero turns to pity as we see a captain truly tortured by alcoholism. Whip has thrown away everything good in his life and even finding romance in the arms of Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a recovering heroine addict, he still fails to ride the coattails of her path to recovery.
Denzel Washington once again shows us that he’s still got it. The illustrious actor is never too old to do what he does best; command our attention and pull our hearts. It’s not an easy task to take a middle-age pilot that has abandoned his family for booze, and still come out empathetic, yet Denzel does it brilliantly.
Coming in for strong support, Flight has an additional ‘cast’ of names not easily overlooked. Don Cheadle plays Whip’s intelligent lawyer, Bruce Greenwood plays a seemingly caring airline union rep, and John Goodman has fun as an eccentric drug dealing “friend” who is always a delight to have on screen.
The legendary visual style of Back to the Future director Robert Zemeckis is once again showcased. The director successfully finds that middle ground between innovative edge and traditional blockbuster methods. The heavily advertised crash sequence is, as suspected, thrilling, building tension through horrifying passengers’ scream and nifty camerawork. In comparison to its predecessor Cast Away, this Zemeckis crash is slightly more intense, (perhaps the 102 passengers and crew on board might have had something to do with that).
In the end, Flight comes together quite nicely. Zemeckis certainly has a talent for storytelling as he effectively brings the story full circle. We are given a complete picture, void of any loose ends in the plot. And even when it appears Zemeckis has used everything in his arsenal to pull at the heart, he still has enough control as a filmmaker to overshadow any possible structural problems during the home stretch of the film.
Final Verdict: Flight is a film that lives up to the talent that surrounds it, but will not shock you as a masterpiece. Artistically, we have a pretty conventional film; Denzel plays a tortured soul, Zemeckis crashes a plane and dazzles us with his camerawork. That is not to say the film is anyway a failure and not worth seeing. The captivating story alone is enough to draw the masses, holding tight to a fascinating concept that is told by a cast of wonderful storytellers.