Director: Robert Zemeckis
Written by: John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, and Melissa Leo
Synopsis: In this action-packed mystery thriller, Academy Award winner, Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot, who miraculously crash lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every soul on board. After the crash, Whip is hailed as a hero, but as more is learned, more questions than answers arise as to who or what was really at fault and what really happened on that plane?
A lot of people will notice the advertising for this film emphasizing the flight and the daring landing performed by Denzel’s character Whip Whitaker. The film isn’t about the actual events of the plane, the crash, or the court case that followed but is rather a character analysis of a man struggling with alcohol addiction. After the plane crash officials drew a blood sample from Whip and tested it to discover that he had alcohol within his system at the time of the crash. This is a little misleading from what’s in the trailers and leads the viewer to discover what the film is truly about in a remarkable way. Now, this isn’t like when Drive was marketed as a fast paced action film and some viewers were disappointed when they found out what it really was about. This is a good surprise because you’re satisfied with everything that’s shown in the marketing within the first hour. It’s like finding the prize in the cereal box, digging deeper, and finding another and more intriguing prize hidden a little deeper within. There’s lots of smoke and mirrors but it pays off in a positive way.
First thing about this film that caught my attention was the presence of Denzel. You’ll often hear actors and those involved with his films emphasize the presence he brings to a set and it’s almost noticeable in his co-stars’ performances. Denzel gives an expected performance, partly due to the characters he portrays. It’s an almost generic performance and I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone cried out that he’s John Q/Frank Grimes with a drinking problem. It’s remarkable that he can sleepwalk through a performance and yet somehow satisfyingly entertain this blogger by upping the ante during the key scenes and delivering accordingly. He relies on his presence but with his method of performance it works and people tend to act “around” Denzel as opposed to acting “with” Denzel. Everyone else talks “up” to him and Denzel tends to talk “down” to everyone else, solidifying himself as the alpha early on.
John Goodman provided a fairly fun character as Harling Maysthat and also didn’t seem like too much of a stretch of his natural self. He seems very relaxed portraying a guy who drinks frequently and loves a good line of coke once in a while with friends. Again, it didn’t feel like this was too much of a stretch. He was actually very appreciable whenever he was on screen and managed to lighten the tone and inject some humor with his presence. He has some very interesting chemistry with Washington and seems to be the exception with the “talking up, talking down” thing which helps with his portrayal of a close friend and confidant. Don Cheadle also popped up in this film from time to time and did a serviceable job as attorney Hugh Lang. He wasn’t a primary character within this film but exhibited a smart and focused character attempting to help a man maintain his freedom.
I loved the overall direction of this film and let me explain what I mean: This film is a complete package. The pacing, cinematography, and even the soundtrack is overflowing with an older charm that I don’t always see in movies. I didn’t feel that any scene lingered too long or ended abruptly, no upsetting shaky cam, and no awkward accompanying music to a scene to remove you from you immersion into the film. The cinematography was very satisfying, overall, with the angles and shots used. I want to give special emphasis on the soundtrack as I found myself tapping my feet and nodding my ahead along with the scenes as they went along. There are those key moments when, sometimes, filmmakers will rely on the soundtrack to guide you through a scene without any dialogue and if I hadn’t been paying close attention I wouldn’t have noticed the technique in practice which is a credit to those involved with editing and direction. I was really happy with the soundtrack, and sound overall, and if I’m not mistaken I could swear I heard a song play from beginning to end and it wasn’t a detriment. Think about that, you might appreciate that fact as much as I do.
I was very surprised by the length of the film clocking in at over 2 hours in length. Now whats surprising is that the film didn’t feel too long and seemed to reach its natural conclusion. When the film ended, in my theater, the movie received a standing ovation with people seeming to really enjoy this movie, and where it went, and the ending which was extremely satisfying. The character arc introduced at the beginning of the film reached where it needed to reach before the credits appeared.
My gripe with the film would be with some of the weaker performances within the film. I won’t name names because in reality it’s only a minor nitpick but some of the other performances were weaker than what I believe they were aiming to deliver.
If you don’t see this in theaters make sure you watch it when it hits home release as this is the first film bringing back director Robert Zemeckis to the live-action department. Check out our recently published an interview with Zemeckis conducted by New York Film Academy’s own Frank Pasquine.
I give Flight an 8 out of 10.