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Written by: Sam Fragoso on November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012 | 20 comments | Featured

Tragedy strikes on a commercial flight to Detroit when captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) and co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) unintentionally direct their plane into a vicious rainstorm. In what may be the most harrowing sequence to be in theaters this year, the plane becomes introverted, and Whip – hung-over and high on cocaine from the night before with colleague Katerina Marquez (Nadine Velazquez) – acts composed and with poise under pressure.

Before the lives of everyone on the plane are taken, Whip, in nothing short of a miracle, lands the plain, saving 100 of the 106 people on board. Placed in a hospital after suffering a concussion during the landing, Whitaker wakes up to expect his courageous actions to be applauded.

It’s not long before a procedural investigation is launched – revealing his ongoing bout with alcoholism and drug addiction. Is a man who saved the lives of many from a plane that had technical difficulties, but had alcohol in his system at the time of the flight, responsible for the manslaughter of those six individuals (one of which was Katerina)?

In what is Denzel Washington’s most devastating and resonate performance since The Hurricane (expressing inner emotion every step of the way), Whip is emblematic of many men and women who are constantly struggling with this persistent disease. He’s built up a tolerance to 10-15 drinks and snorting a few lines of coke, then proceeding to operate an aircraft carrier. Most of us couldn’t do that even at more lucid moments.

Sympathetic as he initially may be, Flight wears its convictions thin after 138-minutes of essentially the same sequence, over and over again. It resembles a mans hardships with alcoholism, but unlike Drugstore Cowboy – perhaps the most heartbreaking and honest film on drug addiction that demonstrates the agony of it all – Robert Zemeckis shoots an excess of drug consumption with not much weight behind them as Whip take pleasure in its habitual consumption of alcohol.

Once the film gets rolling – and Whip is hired an attorney played by Don Cheadle – it works. Without its uniformly masterclass of a cast (from John Goodman as the drug dealer best friend to Kelly Reilly as fellow addict who befriends Whip), Flight would be just another remedial exercise on the consequences and severities of addiction.

Thankfully, Zemeckis’ knows what he’s doing behind the helm. John Gatins’ script struggles before finally taking off, but when it does, Flight is everything it should be: powerful, sobering, and saddening. While it doesn’t hold a torch to Zemeckis’ magnum opus Forrest Gump, it’s a film with terrifying tension and devastating pathos.

Set to what is likely the best soundtrack of the 2012 – ranging from Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine to the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter – Washington and company deliver masterful performances that belong in a better film.

Flight is a rugged, inconsistent, but gut-punching drama with – much like the life of any addict – transcendent highs and self-destructive lows.

Rating: ★★★☆


Flight (2012)

Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Writer: John Gatins

Runtime: 138 minutes

Genre: drama

Trailer Flight


There are 20 comments for this post.

  1. Two Tickets For... on November 2, 2012 12:54 pm

    Great review! We’ve been hearing great things about Denzel’s performance, which makes us very excited to check out the movie tonight! It makes us a little leery to hear you say it’s a little inconsistent, especially with its run time, but hopefully the performances make it worth it!

  2. Sam Fragoso on November 2, 2012 1:00 pm

    Well, I hope you enjoy the film. Report back on how the film plays for you two.

  3. sati on November 2, 2012 1:57 pm

    Great review! I heard so many amazing things about Washington’s performance I’ll definetly see that. It’s great it has Kely Reilly too, I really like her.

  4. Sam Fragoso on November 2, 2012 2:39 pm

    I’m hoping this will garner him an Oscar nomination.

  5. Alex Thomas on November 2, 2012 6:23 pm

    I’ve briefly read reviews where people say Denzel’s character brings it all on himself and they feel no pity for him (being an alcoholic and all). Will be interesting to see how I feel. Good review.

  6. Sam Fragoso on November 2, 2012 11:38 pm

    Alcoholism does that to people. He brings in on himself because he can’t control it, no matter how badly he wishes to. Thanks for reading, Alex.

  7. Julian on November 3, 2012 9:06 am

    When i first saw the trailer for this it didn’t grab my attention, but the buzz for this film has caught my interest

  8. Sam Fragoso on November 3, 2012 2:38 pm

    Really? The trailer was pretty riveting from what I remember.

  9. Julian on November 3, 2012 8:18 pm

    For me i remember the first trailer for this changed tone like 5 times(Kept jumping back and forth between serious and comedic) and that kind of turned me off. I figured the film would have major tonal problems, but considering i haven’t seen anyone mention one when reviewing it i am going to chalk that up to bad marketing.

  10. Sam Fragoso on November 3, 2012 9:18 pm

    I think the trailer was probably disguising itself to get people into the seats. It’s almost entirely serious and dramatic — aside from some small spurts of comedy with John Goodman.

  11. Dan on November 4, 2012 1:36 am

    So glad to see Robert Zemeckis back working with live-action again. I’ve missed that. He’s one of my favourite filmmakers and I can’t wait to catch up with this. Unfortunately, it isn’t released until next year here in the UK.

  12. Sam Fragoso on November 4, 2012 12:16 pm

    Really? What time next year?

  13. Dan O. on November 4, 2012 5:28 pm

    Good review Sam. Not the perfect movie I would have liked from Zemeckis and in his long-awaited return to live-action movies, but still one that kept me involved and interested the whole way. That’s also mainly because of Washington and what he was able to do with this rich character that really had me wondering what it is that I liked about him. Oh wait, he’s Denzel freakin’ Washington, that’s why.

  14. Sam Fragoso on November 4, 2012 5:30 pm

    He’s talented, engaging, lively actor. Glad you enjoyed the film Dan.

  15. Colin Biggs on November 4, 2012 5:37 pm

    Sounds like the script has its chin held a little too high. Fortunately, Washington can more than make up for sub-par writing.

  16. Sam Fragoso on November 4, 2012 5:44 pm

    Have you seen the film, Colin?

  17. Colin Biggs on November 5, 2012 9:17 am

    Not yet. I’ve spent a majority of my time the last three weeks house-hunting with my girlfriend and moving. Although I would like to give Flight a go before Skyfall debuts.

  18. Sam Fragoso on November 5, 2012 8:20 pm

    Oh, where are you moving to?

  19. Alex Withrow on November 6, 2012 6:50 am

    Good review here, Sam. I liked the film more than you, but I completely agree that it contains Washington’s best performance since The Hurricane, and has a superb soundtrack, among other things. Denzel’s still got it. I dig.

  20. Sam Fragoso on November 6, 2012 7:12 pm

    Will go forth and read your review Alex. It’s a powerful film no doubt. Here’s hoping Washington gets a nomination.

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