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FLIGHT (FILM ONLY REVIEW)
Flight was a film that I really fancied watching from the trailer I saw for it a few months previously. After watching it at the weekend, here are my thoughts:
The film follows the aftermath over the weeks and months following a plane crash and the investigation into how it occurred to determine where the blame for the crash lied. Captain Whip Whitaker (played by Denzel Washington) is questioned about his handling of the flight to determine whether he was responsible or partly to blame for the crash. We follow Captain Whitaker's life during the aftermath and enter his private life away from being a pilot.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I really enjoyed this film, although I wasn't sure from the very start whether it would be my cup of tea. I was actually quite shocked at the very start due to there being a lot of nudity and drug taking on camera which lasted over at least 15 minutes - something that was completely unexpected from seeing the original trailer and something that shocked me slightly with it being a film rated suitable for 15 years and older. My husband and I both agreed that it must have only scraped through as 15 and I felt that an 18 rating might have been more appropriate based on a couple of those scenes.
The idea of the film plot was fantastic and I thought it was well executed on the whole, although the scenes showing the actual plane crash didn't look all that 'big budget' to me. I felt that the stunts and scenes during this section could have been carried out a little better if I'm honest - they were good but not as spectacular as I expected from a film starring such a huge name as the lead actor. Saying that though, there was only Denzel Washington and John Goodman (who makes a small appearance) in this film that I recognised personally although from googling afterwards it seems a couple of the other actors have been in some high profile films that I haven't seen.
One thing I must highlight is Denzel Washington's acting. I felt that he played the role of Whip extremely well - he was wholeheartedly believable as the character and in my view, the perfect choice for the role as his style of acting really suited it. John Goodman's appearance was also great but unfortunately his character didn't feature as much as I would have liked.
The film was around the right length - I'm the type that normally hates long films but this was over 2 hours long and I still felt that it was about right given the plot that it covered. There were a few scenes that weren't necessary really and could have been cut out but overall it seemed about right. A good sign was that I didn't get distracted at all watching it - I was quite captured in the storyline throughout and didn't do my normal thing of getting on with other things at the same time. The storyline was strong enough to keep me interested and on my toes to wonder where it would next lead.
There were a couple of characters in the film that I felt they could have made more of - John Goodman's character for one but particularly the lawyer for the airline he worked for and his friend from the airline that he had known for years. They didn't feature as much as I would have liked really and I was left with the feeling that they could have made more of their characters as I felt they had much more to give to the plot. With with his friend from the airline, I felt that their friendship could have been explained and explored more. Saying that, I also felt that there was one character, Nicole, a friend Whip makes during the beginning, that didn't need to be in the film as much as she was. I felt that the friendship that they had made was a little far-fetched to be honest and I didn't find it all that believable.
I've rated the film 3 stars overall, probably more like 3.5 stars though overall. I've taken one off because of the weird start - I felt that it was quite inappropriate and made me wonder about the films overall classification and whether I would be happy allowing my daughter to watch the film when she reaches the age of 15. I don't think I would really. I actually started to wonder at the beginning if I'd bought the wrong film in error! I've also taken another star off for the other reasons I've outlined - the stunts for the plane crash weren't as spectacular as I expected and I felt that the film's characters were either overused in the case of his friend Nicole, or underused in the case of the airline colleagues. But, the actual film was a good concept and kept me entertained for the two hours of viewing. Overall it was fairly well executed with some great acting from Denzel Washington as always.
Rating: 15 years and over
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood
DVD Released: 3rd June 2013
Running Time: 133 minutes
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I have a list of actors who I always know are going to give a good performance, regardless of the quality of the film. Denzel Washington is one of these actors. Every time he is on screen, there is a level of comfort I take in knowing that if all else fails in the film, his performance will be worth it. Flight features him playing an alcoholic airline pilot.
Denzel's character is Whip Whitaker, an ace airline pilot. Disaster strikes when the plane he is flying suffers a major malfunction, and in an incredibly tense opening to the film, Whip recovers the plane from a plummet to invert it and eventually crash land the right way up. Six people die in the crash, and while Whip is hailed as a hero for saving the lives of the others, his blood tests revealing that he had an excessive amount of drugs and alcohol in his system.
I think the important thing to consider here is how the film is intended to be portrayed. It's certainly important that the tale of whether Whip is to be punished for his alcohol and drug use while in control of a plane or revered due to his amazing flying that unquestionably saved lives, the main focus of the film is on Whip's struggle with his addiction. The investigation and its eventual outcome serves as a vehicle for the cast to rally around Washington's portrayal of a struggling alcoholic.
You expect the political and legal chains of process to be documented to some extent, and this is probably essential to the film being a success, as if it focused solely on Whitaker's struggle to remain clean in the aftermath, then it would soon become a one man show and result in scene after scene featuring the same process. Instead, because the events of the crash landing are detailed in scenes which quite often don't involve Whitaker, there's sufficient distraction to jerk you back to analysing his physical and mental condition when he does come back on screen.
Washington is well supported by reliable character actors such as Don Cheadle, John Goodman and Bruce Greenwood, all of which can consider themselves accomplished actors you'd like to rely on. They justify this with their support, and although Denzel is the one with the Oscar nomination, it's made possible by the support given here. A character going through turmoil is not necessarily capable of dealing with a situation himself or herself, this is almost certain, and in film it should be no different. Support from Kelly Reilly as a fellow sufferer of some sort enables him to have some sort of companionship throughout his ordeal, although even she finds his behaviour and occasional selfishness too much to bare at times.
But the tour de force here is Denzel, and what he brings to an alcoholic trying to recover and save his own life, reputation and regain the family who once held him so dear. His style flows from the confident start where we find out he is somewhat intoxicated, to the grumpy and miserable man who is clean and sober, and then the ultimate swing to the complete opposite, where he is so over confident due to being completely inebriated that he becomes obnoxious and instantly unlikeable.
Through most of the film, I marvelled at just how impressive he was. You can see the emotion written in his eyes, and he is known for being an intense researcher when it comes to playing his roles. I don't believe he goes through the same physical suffering that actors such as Christian Bale often put themselves through for roles, although mentally and professionally he is incredibly strong. I thought this was one of his best performances ever, the timing in particular standing out in most of his scenes.
Of some slight confusion is that this brings Robert Zmeckis back to the director's chair after a substantial absence. Ever busy as a producer, his last film as director was with Jim Carrey as the leading role in the 'real' animation version of A Christmas Carol, which is a far cry to this sort of film. Used to dealing with films where the main protagonist is a loner male (Cast Away most notably with Tom Hanks) this provides a somewhat darker approach with the drink and drugs angle. Perhaps Zmeckis' most genius move here though is the addition of John Goodman as Whip's drug dealer, whizzing in and out of the occasional scene like a whirlwind, stealing each scene he is in. I wouldn't be surprised if he was deliberately kept out of some of the scenes for fear of taking over the whole thing and upstaging the emotional tug Denzel brings to the audience.
I'm not waxing lyrical for no reason, and I want to be clear that while the film is good it's not great. But there are some great elements to the film and this is what sets it a cut above some others in terms of a social drama. The focus is on Whip Whitaker, that must remain clear. There is no stronger scene than when he is dominant, and Denzel Washington makes sure that above all else we are kept aware of just how bad things are for the pilot. The legal tussles pit the big corporations and all of the people that go with that, against the individual, the one man on his own, cowering in the spotlight. Put him at the flight controls you'd feel he's the best, put him by a minibar and you'd be hard pushed to like him. Either way, the term 'hero' has mixed connotations in this film. Its dual meaning is equally empowered by an impressive display in front of and behind the camera. Recommended.
Star - Denzel Washington
Genre - Drama
Certificate - R18
Run Time - 138 minutes
Country - USA
Blockbuster Rental- £3.50
Awards - 2 Oscar nominations
Amazon -£10.00 DVD (£15.00 Blue Ray)
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At the 196o Farnborough Airshow the great test pilot Roland Falk unexpectedly barrel rolled the mighty Avro Vulcan to wow the massive crowds below, and the Queen in attendance, but his superior officer admonishing him on the ground for 'inappropriate behavior for a bomber'. Big planes are not designed to be inverted, the central theme of Flight.
The film was inspired by a real life disaster, the crash of commercial airline Alaska Airlines 261. The twin jet McDonald Douglas 80 plane suffered a catastrophic failure when its horizontal stabilizer/rudder jammed, causing it to dive "nose-down". The pilots, like in this film, rolled the aircraft to an inverted position (upside-down) to try and stabilize it. Unfortunately it didn't assist them in recovering the aircraft.
But what this film is really about is the fact that being a modern day commercial airline pilot is no longer a great job, no stunning stewardess, five star hotels or two day stopovers to enjoy the highlife, just underpaid and exhausted most of the time, the reason why many planes crash happen these days. Airlines have to undercut each other to keep going and the unions lose that battle over wages and conditions because of, some pilots driven to drink and drugs just to stay awake, the central theme of this movie. As the wages fall there have been increased cases of pilot error and crew falling asleep at the throttle. Incredibly, budget airline pilots are earning as little as $24,000 (£18,500) a year with co-pilots on just $16,000(£12,000), lower than Wal-Mart checking clerks. They often drive long distances to the hub airports and sleep in cheap and nasty hotels just to keep the job, often hot bedding with other pilots to save cash, adding to the fatigue. The explosion of budget routes has diluted the glamour completely.
'Flight' is from director Rob Zemeckis, he of classics like the Back to the Future trilogy, Romancing the Stone and Forest Gump, this his first live action movie since Cast Away and his first R-Rated since Used Cars (1980), very much a family movie guy. Flight is not what you would expect from him though, a serious movie with serious acting, and a moral message, although I'm not really sure what that message was, the films biggest airbrake.
Denzel Washington, of course, is in the lead and one of those castings where you're not really sure if the star is right for the role. But he brings with him a big multicultural audience so worth the risk, nominated for an Oscar for his role as pilot Whip Whitaker here so proven correct by Zemeckis. Washington has a flat fee of $10 million dollars per mainstream movie and so cool and likeable that he can pretty much make any script work and makes that money back tenfold if you employ him. But sensing the Oscar buzz he took a tenth of that pay packet for this one as he loved the script so much, and the fact Zemeckis was on board, sniffing that Oscar buzz.
= = = Cast = = =
* Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker
* Kelly Reilly as Nicole Maggen
* Don Cheadle as Hugh Lang
* Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson
* John Goodman as Harling Mays
* Melissa Leo as Ellen Block
* Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thomason
* Nadine Velazquez as Katerina Márquez
* Brian Geraghty as Ken Evans
* Peter Gerety as Avington Carr
* Garcelle Beauvais as Deana Coleman
* Justin Martin as Will Whitaker
= = = The Plot = = =
Pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) has had a heavy night of booze, girls and cocaine, an alcoholic, and still sneaking a shot of whisky or two from the duty free as he prepares for his routine commuter flight from Orlando to Atlanta. There are violent thunderstorms in and around the airport and so will need to be alert on takeoff, co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) weary of his number one and his erratic behavior.
After some heavy turbulence they clear the thunderheads with some skillful flying from Whitaker and settle down in clear sunshine for the routine flight to Georgia, Whip asleep for most of it. Just as they come off autopilot and begin the decent there's a catastrophic failure in the tailfin elevator and the plane locks into a fatal dive, Whip again taking over the controls. But it's grim and the only thing he can do now is to throw the plane upside down for 30 seconds, hopefully to level out the descent from an inverted position, which he achieves. Once the roll is corrected he rolls it back over and crash lands in a field after losing both engines, clipping a church tower in the process.
With just six dead - two crew and four passengers - Whip is immediately hailed a hero, but soon after in the hospital alcohol and cocaine traces discovered in his blood. It then becomes a damage limitation exercise by the airline and their expensive lawyers, hardass attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) guiding him though the hoops. If he wants to save his wings and avoid jail he must do what he is told and, most importantly, lay off those vices. But Whip begins to think the crash had a higher meaning, questioning why it happened and confronting his own demons in the process, but soon back on those demons. The question then is did he save all those lives because being loaded gave him the confidence to pull off the maneuver, was it his condition that caused the crash or was it a freak equipment failure, what the lawyers are going for, the so-called Act of God.
= = = Results = = =
I have to say this one did not live up to the positive reviews I had been reading. Like Training Day, Washington's nomination that got us interested in seeing this film seemed to be for commercial and racial quota reasons and not really working in the movie for me. A token love interest with a fellow addict and a crazy casting of John Goodman as his dug dealer also grated. Because of that the film becomes about nothing in particular and the moral of the story somewhat lost. The religious metaphors stack up but that doesn't seem to go anywhere either. All we seem to learn is the guy is not very pleasant.
Its comment on a functioning alcoholic in a high pressured job is an interesting one. Most pressured professionals do something for stress relief. Do you really want to know what your surgeon or doctor was doing the other night? Therefore do those vices actually help these guys and girls do the job? Behind publicans, the profession of doctor is the highest for alcoholism. What if Captain Sullenberger, who dropped the plane in the River Hudson, had one too many! Would we ever know? Tony Blair admitted he drank heavily as Prime Minister and a little more sobriety may have saved Iraq from total destruction.
Flight is ok and a bit of a refreshing throwback in its mood and acting but it simply didn't do a great deal in those 138minutes. The opening crash sequence is good and sets it up as an action movie but after that it rather drags along searching for that moral message and then ends up confused what it was supposed to be about. It looks good on its $31 million budget and did $161 million back and so a decent success for this kind of adult movie.
It has an edgy soundtrack to build the tension as the court case and Whip's fete nears but it never feels like its going to wow you at any point. Its just one of those films you feel obliged to see because someone who apparently knows what they are talking about told you to. It's intelligent enough but stuck between a court room drama, a morality tale and a black comedy, which it succeeds at none.
-Anatomy of a Plane Crash-
Just the one behind the scenes piece about how they filmed the big opening plane crash sequence.
= = = = RATINGS = = = =
Imdb.com - 7.3/10.0 (122,897votes)
Metacrtic.com - 76% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 78% critic's approval
= = = = Critics = = = =
The Daily Telegraph -'Brace! Brace! Smart entertainment from Zemeckis, superior acting from DW'
The Baltimore Sun -'There's no doubt that audiences used to him as Malcolm X or 'Hurricane' Carter will be appalled by the sight of him completely off his face'.
Time Out -''Flight' is predictable in its plotting and soft in its conclusions. But thanks to that dynamite opening and Washington's effortless performance, it's also an enjoyable, compelling slice of old-school melodrama'.
The Sun -'Best not show this as the in-flight movie'
Movie News -'The powerful pull of the bottle is conveyed with considerable force...The character fits Washington like a tailored strait-jacket, possibly because he's worn it before'.
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Someone gave me a recommendation for this flick even though I hadn't heard anything about it when they suggested it. I find it a little odd that I don't recall cinema posters and ads for it, given that it stars Denzel Washington, is quite high budget and have received some awards. Whilst it may not be the most exciting at times, it blends action and drama effectively, making it an interesting flick I was engrossed in watching until the end.
This was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who has been involved in numerous films, including the direction of Cast Away and What Lies Beneath, so he brought with him much experience in the industry.
We're introduced to Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot just about to board his flight to from Orlando to Atlanta. He takes his seat with his First Officer (FO), a somewhat nervous and very serious guy who obviously knows the importance of their roles and wants to do it all right and by the book. Except that Whip seems a little out of shape. The banter with the cabin crew is as per the norm, but when he starts asking for asprin and seems more than a little complacent, we start to wonder if he's actually fit to fly. We know he's not, because he's been knocking back the booze, and has continued his liquid evening to a liquid breakfast as he pours a sneaky vodka during his introductions to the passengers. Whip seems so utterly confident in himself that he garners the respect from all on board, all except for the FO that is.
The weather on this day isn't the best, and it's a rocky start to get through turbulence and cloudy storms in order to break through to the other side. Pushing the usual protocol, Whip takes charge and never the less manages to pull them through it. Whilst the passengers are a little shaky, they're in the free and clear to enjoy the rest of the flight. But not for long. Something goes wrong and the plane goes erratic. Whip hasn't been paying enough attention and the FO starts to panic, neither of them knowing quite what's going wrong. Being flexible with the protocol, Whip decides the only choice is to crash the plane, as that's inevitably going to happen anyway, but to do it in a way to minimise impact. He does, saving almost all on board. A few die, a few are injured, but the death count could have been far higher.
The press consider Whip a hero, as no one else could have managed that crash landing the way he did, no one could have saved those people like he did. But Whip wasn't fit to fly, and the FO knows that, except he's in a coma. However, being drunk has a tendency to show up in your blood tests when you get taken to hospital, so when the airline crash investigators turn up, it's not looking good. The airline union assign Whip a lawyer, Hugh, who only confirms the news: alcohol and cocaine were found to be in his system when he was flying the plane, so it's likely he will face criminal charges, despite Whip's protests of being unimpaired. The investigation begins. Meanwhile, Whip is left to deal with himself. With the mess of his life, having been ripped apart by booze and drugs. An ex-wife. A son who seems ashamed of him. An empty life.
Along the way he meets another woman, a drug addict, and the two have something in common. But Whip can't get out of his habits, and it's a question of whether he will face up to his demons and the tragedy of the aircraft crash, or if he continues to make a mess of his life.
I have some prior interest in this kind of thing anyway so I had a feeling I would find it interesting. I actually work in aviation, and part of that is doing psych reports for candidates (ie to become captains, FOs, to join a new airline etc) This is the kind of thing selection is supposed to help identify, the behavioural and psychological aspects that could help or hinder a candidate in their roles. Anyway, the premise wasn't very complicated, in fact, it was almost elegant in its simplicity. It managed to deliver a shock of impact, high drama, action, and gentle moral undertones.
The cast includes Denzel Washington as drunken Whip Whitaker, Brian Geraghty (playing Ken Evans, the one guy holding Whip's get out of jail card), Kelly Reilly (Nicole) and Don Cheadle (Hugh Lang, the lawyer), amongst others. I'm a fan of Denzel anyway and he lived up to my expectations; he brought credibility to the film, bringing it down to earth by making his role and character realistic and believable. The rest of the cast were equally well-placed, and I enjoyed seeing Cheadle, who was fantastic as always.
Scenes were well done and you could tell a lot of money and effort had gone in to making it realistic and hard-hitting. The actual scene of the crash, and build up to that, along with scenes of the wreckage, helped to bring it to life, so to speak. There have been bigger movie scenes of course, ones with far more action and destruction, but this was one of those 'close to home' scenes; you could imagine being one of the passengers; it was again that sense of basic simplicity that made it dramatic without being melodramatic.
As for the pace, the initial scenes involving the aeroplane were faster and more involving. After that buzz, there was a lot more down time. There was pause for thought and reflection in the wake of the crash, and the downward spiral of the captain as the investigation proceeds. I didn't find myself becoming bored, however. I do think there could have been more depth at times, but of course you can only fit so much in to a film and it balanced it all well without going off the spectrum and becoming too sentimental. The acting brought the whole thing together, with Washington really making the film what it was.
This was nominated for 2 Oscars and has also won 7 awards, so it must have done something right. It blends human nature and human problems in to an everyday scene of horror, drawing out thought from the audience as we get a glimpse in to the life of the captain. I found myself really questioning whether he was at fault, whether he was a hero, whether he was to be cheered, hated or pitied. I thought about the film afterwards and it stayed in my brain, which is usually the sign of a decent film for me (I tend to watch so many rubbish films that my brain selectively forgets half of them!).
Overall, I would recommend this. It's thought-provoking, entertaining and engaging, balancing action and drama effectively, with a lead actor to ground it and bring it to life.
Rated certificate 15. Running time 133 minutes.
DVD due for release June 2013, Amazon priced at £10.
As soon as I saw the trailer for Flight I really wanted to see it. Firstly because Denzel Washington is the lead character, and also because it looked like a brilliant film. It is directed by Robert Zemeckis and was released on 01 February 2013.
The film revolves around Airline captain William Whitaker, known to friends as Whip, (Denzel Washington) who we are immediately made aware has a problem with alcohol and uses cocaine to 'clear his head' before flying passenger jets. Captain Whip is in control of a plane from Orlando to Atlanta and just before they take the plane into descent the hydraulics on one side of the aircraft completely fail and the plane starts to drop quickly and is literally nose diving through the air. The co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) panics yet Whip remains completely calm and gives guidance to his co-pilot to help him roll the plane upside down to level it out again and just before the plane reaches the ground he turns it back round before landing it in a field.
Whip is knocked unconscious on landing and wakes in a hospital where he discovers that 96 of the 102 passengers on board have survived and he has been labelled a hero. Herds of journalists and press are parked up outside the hotel waiting to get a photograph or quote from him. Whilst in the hospital he meets Nicole (Kelly Reilly) who is recovering from a heroin overdose. He gets talking to her and says he will visit her when he is discharged and asks for her address.
When he is released from hospital Whip learns that while he was unconscious a standard blood test was taken and it showed that he was way over the limit for alcohol and had drugs in his system whilst flying. He is told that this could result in him being charged for manslaughter of those who died, or at least drink and drugs offences, all of which carry a prison sentence. His friend and pilot union representative Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood) gets to work with attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) on trying to overturn the toxicology report and save Whip from prison. In the meantime Whip finds Nicole and she lives with him on his late fathers farm. Nicole is working hard and succeeding on staying clean, whereas Whip is spiralling out of control as his alcoholism worsens...Whips life is in the balance and the rest of the film reveals his fate...
The storyline of this film was strong and kept me interested. It was relatively easy to follow at the start but became more complex as it went on. I wouldn't say it was hugely challenging and it certainly didn't try to confuse the viewer, but it just becomes much more complex than you first expect. I was glad about this, particularly bearing in mind the fact that this film is almost 2.5 hours long, and the plot developed enough to keep it interesting for the duration. The concept of the film is strong as it presents a moral dilemma between right and wrong. Should he be prosecuted for being drunk whilst flying, even though his actions were heroic and he did something that no other pilot could do and saved many lives in the process? And it was a dilemma for the viewer too, I found myself drifting between wanting him to escape jail and get away with it, or thinking he did deserve jail.
The plot moves quickly at the beginning and you are immediately thrown into the main storyline and into very dramatic scenes, before even getting chance to maintain anything about the characters or their situations. I liked being thrown in like this, it was unsettling and made the plane scenes much more intense as a viewer. I didn't feel ready for the dramatic scenes yet which made it all the more severe, which reflected well the feelings of those involved. After this initial drama the plot slows down dramatically and I finally got to find out the background of the Captain Whip and as the film progresses more and more is revealed until you have a whole context to work with and my initial judgements changed. I like the fact that the film held back on information in this way. Some films suit an introduction where you find out everything about the characters and get a context before the drama begins, but this film suited it the other way round.
The film is very much focussed on the main characters and whilst there are other characters involved, these remain very much in the background. This focus on the protagonists allows a deeper understanding of their situations and personalities which was necessary for the film to work. By the end of the film I felt a lot of empathy for both characters, whom I wouldn't usually have related to, and I genuinely cared for the outcome of the film which made for good watching. It became a very emotional film which wasn't what I expected from it but I did enjoy this.
The drama level of the film is limited and really once the initial big dose of drama is over with there aren't any further offerings. Usually I would need a steady flow of dramatic scenes to keep interested in a film like this, but somehow the plight of the characters was enough. There was the odd comical moment to lighten the mood, particularly the scenes involving Whips friend and drug dealer Harling Mays (John Goodman). These worked well within what is otherwise a very serious film and give that little bit of light-heartedness but without turning the film into a comedy.
There is one sub-story in the form of Whips struggling relationship with his ex-wife and son. This is brought into play a few times throughout and is relevant to the main plot so enhances it rather than detracting from it. The film production was excellent and the plane seen was particularly well portrayed. The camera angles and settings used worked excellently and watching it at the cinema made it feel like you were actually in that plane. It was scary to watch and you could really imagine how horrifying it would have been. I really enjoyed this but was glad I wasn't flying anywhere any time soon!!
The acting was particularly strong in this film and made watching it even more enjoyable. Denzel Washington, was always delivered a flawless and effortless performance. I like his acting style because he never comes across like he is trying too hard therefore it doesn't even seem like he is acting, but more just being himself. This always works well for him, and this film is no exception. He portrays the complex character of Whip very well and whilst remaining very laid back and not over acting, he still manages to get across the inner pain and struggle the character is experiencing. I tried to imagine the film with someone else as Captain Whip and it was difficult to think of anyone else doing it better.
Kelly Reilly was also excellent and really surprised me. I remember her as Mary from the recent Sherlock Holmes films and whilst she was good in those films she didn't offer anything different or memorable, whereas her portrayal of Nicole in this film was amazing. It was a very difficult character to play as she is a recovering heroin addict who has had a very difficult life, made more complex by Whip. She was very convincing in this role and was barely recognisable. She too never fell into the trap of over-acting and making a melodrama of things, instead she kept it under control but without taking anything away from the character.
Other notable acting came from Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle who gave very natural performances which complimented the film perfectly. John Goodman also did a great job in bringing some light to the film with his comical character, but whilst staying strictly within the genre and not taking away from the overall feel of the film.
I really enjoyed this film and thought it offered more than I initially expected. The storyline is easy to follow but the actual issues presented are complex and offer enough to keep the film entertaining throughout. I'd definitely recommend watching this film, particularly if you are in the mood for a deep emotional drama. The acting is outstanding and makes the film even more enjoyable.
We're often told that it's a bad idea to drink and drive. Denzel Washington shows us that it's an even worse idea to drink and fly. He's drunk, especially after one of his boozy night-outs, and his self-prescribed cure for the morning after is snorting some cocaine (does this actually work?) - and so starts the day of pilot William "Whip" Whitaker (Washington), a man whose life will be turned upside down (both literally and figuratively) by an accident that gives director Robert Zemeckis his incredibly thrilling opening. It was supposed to be an ordinary flight from Orlando to Atlanta. His plane his turbulence, and off comes a vital screw. Whoops, there goes the engine. And down we go, into one heck of an exhilarating scene. Those paying attention to the film's trailers or posters would have noticed an inverted plane on fire. That is exactly what happens here. Due to some complex laws of physics and flight, he decides the only safe method of landing the plane would be to turn it 180 degrees. Cue even more adrenaline as the camera turns alone with the many passengers who are rightly terrified out of their minds. But the ultimate result is an unquestionably good one. 96 out of 102 saved, with 6 dead.
He's now painted as a hero. An ingenious pilot who didn't freeze but instead thought on his feet under immense pressure saving as many lives as he possibly could. The media frenzy wants to be all over his story and recovery, and his passengers could not be more grateful for his efforts. But things don't stay jolly for long. A standard investigation into the crash, which includes a wide range of tests (including an examination of bloods), reveals his indiscretion, and if a disciplinary panel finds him guilty or responsible in any way, he could be liable for the deaths of the 6 who were on board. He gets a tough-as-nails criminal lawyer (Don Cheadle, in a calm, confident performance) defending him, but in order to build a credible, effective case, he needs to lay off the booze, something he insists is easily achievable. Because he is convinced that he doesn't have a problem. He can control it whenever he wants to.
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem - it would appear Whip hasn't got the starting step all figured out. He is initially guild-ridden and sullen over the crash, which makes him more determined than ever to start over a new life. He pours his beer cans down the sink, he smashes his liquor bottles against the wall, and declines a kind dealer/friend's (the hysterically excellent John Goodman who only appears in a couple of scenes but still makes a memorable impact) drug offers. But if things were this simple, there wouldn't be so many addicts out there. Every twist and turn in his life makes him pine for the alcohol more, as that is the only substance he can find solace and comfort in. With the added pressure coming from the upcoming hearing, as well as the obvious struggles in his personal life (he has an ex-wife and a son he's estranged from), it's not long until he starts hitting the bottle again. And this time, he hits it twice as hard.
Forming a bond with a fellow female addict (Kelly Reilly, her choice of poison being heroin) due to a chance encounter at the hospital, and thanks to her dedication at an addicts' anonymous meeting, he seems to have a chance after all. But still refusing to believe his problems, he manages to drive her away too, completely alienating himself from everyone. It's both frustrating and tragic to see someone go through such rapid decline, all through self-denial. Here Washington is at his most fragile and vulnerable, whilst putting on a brave face in the midst of complex circumstances. He's never over-the-top out of control, but is very much grounded in his very own intimate, tortured shell ready to crack any minute. Whip's sudden blossoming romance with Nicole (Reilly) seems too forced to fully convince, and does drag on a touch too long for something we can clearly see the ending to. But what Reilly successfully does is build a stark contrast between two addicts having hit their very own lowest points. She wants to get better. He does not. Ultimately he's too proud, and it's an agreed fact that landing the plane was a real testament to his skills as a pilot. He clings on to that moment of glory, arrogantly putting himself above everyone else. And of course, we're not surprised to see the relationship nosedive into non-existence.
It unexpectedly turns into an in-depth character study of a man struggling with one of the most challenging diseases of all: addiction. And because the film needs to have a definite, non-wishy-washy ending, the final few minutes do fall into the whole redemptive, humble angle, with the protagonist realising the error of his ways in a split second of a camera shift. It's an inevitable consequence of a build-up that is looking to end on a high, but for the most part, the finale is handled with the minimum amount of cheese, with a dignified Washington holding everything together even in the most clichéd moments.
Any profession is likely to frown upon substance abuse and high dependence. But there is of course, the more sensitive line of work that takes these issues a lot more seriously, and for all the appropriate reasons. And with "Flight," director Zemeckis, who makes a welcome return to live-action films (he spent the last decade or so focusing on largely animated features), is brutally honest about the dark, often unstoppable paths addicts may find themselves in. Whip may not necessarily deserve your sympathy, especially for those who harshly brush past the concept of addiction as a simple series of self-inflicted incidents. But his story is a thought-provoking one, and hopefully one that sheds some insightful light into an often taboo subject matter.