Sunday, March 10, 2013


movie review: in the picture

Flight ***1/2

Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood, Nadine Velazquez, and Tamara Tunie
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

After focusing on motion capture films for nearly a decade, Robert Zemeckis returns to live action with Flight, the story of a downed airplane and the troubled pilot who had been at its helm.

Following a night of partying with flight attendant Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), commercial airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) sets off to fly a plane from Orlando to Atlanta. But the flight soon runs into trouble, first due to bad weather and then mechanical malfunction. Whip ultimately performs a daring maneuver to arrest the plane's rapid descent, and crash lands it in a field, saving most of the people on board. He is initially celebrated as a hero, but the results of a toxicology report soon reveal that he was intoxicated while operating the aircraft, turning him into the subject of an investigation.

Flight benefits from some stunning filmmaking when it's in the air, and powerful acting when it's on the ground. The action only lasts for about the first quarter of the movie; after that the pace slows down considerably and the film turns into a study of the flawed character at its center. The contrast between the dynamic physical turbulence during the first part of the film and the inner, emotional/psychological turbulence during the rest of it is striking and interesting.

The bulk of the movie rests on Denzel Washington's performance, and it is his skill that keeps the film afloat for its two hour running time, as he portrays his complex character's charisma and flaws as we go along. The fact that the Oscar-winner gives a committed performance shouldn't come as a surprise. His portrayal of the pie-eyed pilot is expertly delivered, and the people that he interacts with - including a lawyer who is trying to help him (Don Cheadle), the pilots union rep (Bruce Greenwood), a recovering addict and his love interest (Kelly Reilly), and his friend and drug supplier (John Goodman) who provides the film's comic relief and steals every scene he is in - provide a canvas for the exploration of his character while the supporting cast effectively complements his efforts.

Some of the supporting characters and their relationships, however, do feel a tad stereotypical. At times Flight feels a bit heavy handed and lacks the subtlety that would've perhaps made a stronger impact on the audience. And the movie's long running time does leave you wondering if any of the relationships could have been skimmed down or reworked to make the movie more crisp.

For the most part, Flight isn't a fast paced action packed thriller; it's a slow, dark drama about drug/alcohol abuse that analyzes addiction and its effects. This probably won't be the best thing to watch if you're about to board a plane, and it is extremely unlikely that the film will ever be shown as in-flight entertainment. If you are, however, in the mood for an aviation and addiction drama, then Flight will deliver a tale that is intriguingly dark and laden with tension, and propelled by strong acting and powerful performances.

– Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 10th March, 2013

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