Movie Review-Denzel Flies High, As FLIGHT Enters Oscar Mix

FLIGHT is the story of William "Whip" Whitaker, (played by Denzel Washington) an airline pilot (and alcoholic) who after a booze filled romp with a flight attendant, flies a plane from Orlando to Atlanta. Read Steven Panzarella's review.

FLIGHT is the story of William “Whip” Whitaker, (played by Denzel Washington) an airline pilot (and alcoholic) who after a booze filled romp with a flight attendant, flies a plane from Orlando to Atlanta.

The flight seems to be doomed from the start, as the plane breaks down in flight – but Whitaker maneuvers the aircraft into a crash landing that miraculously ends up with most of the passengers surviving the incident. But while he’s first lauded as a hero, after the crash Whitaker is investigated for his drug and alcohol use prior to the flight.

When Denzel Washington gets into a character – and I mean really jumps into it – there might not be a better actor in Hollywood. FLIGHT above all other things is a study of addiction and denial. Washington makes a heroic character and the films protagonist into an unlikable car wreck of a man. Denzel’s performance might be one of the more genuine portrayals of addiction we have seen on film in some time. His characters actions are both frustrating and all too real as he tries to overcome his addictions.


The pic was directed by motion capture expert Robert Zemeckis, who has not directed a live action film since CAST AWAY in 2000, (his last 3 films were A CHRISTMAS CAROL in 2009, BEOWULF in 2007 and THE POLAR EXPRESS in 2004).  This is Zemeckis return to live action and a triumphant one at that, from the trailer you know how the film’s most exciting moment ends, but the plane crash scene seems to last 20 minutes, and at times forces audiences to question whether or not they are actually on the plane. It’s one of the most exhilarating and emotional moments on film this year, so much so that I felt the need to catch my breath. Zemeckis, along with writer John Gatins, go into an hour and a half long character study, as you watch Whitaker go through the highs and lows of addiction while exploring the affects denial has on a person and the people closest to them. It’s aided by a soundtrack that is almost hysterically matched to every scene including Joe Cocker’s “Feeling Alright” after Denzel’s character does Cocaine to cure his hangover, and The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” during each scene John Goodman’s character appears.

There are other pretty fantastic performances – especially from Kelly Reilly who plays Nicole, a drug addict who meets Whitaker on the stairs of the hospital she is staying in after overdosing early on in the film. Reilly’s performance is excellent, as a troubled yet compassionate addict. Sadly there is not enough Nicole to make Reilly a viable Oscar candidate. The British actress’ performance should pass her through a threshold into demanding more juicy roles and less supporting, nearly non existent appearances in both SHERLOCK HOLMES films. Along with Reilly is John Goodman who has been just about as busy as an actor can be over the last few months, with supporting roles in ARGO, PARANORMAN, and TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE. Goodman might actually receive some buzz from his role in FLIGHT as Whip’s eccentric buddy/drug dealer but with such strong competition I do not see a gold statue in his future. Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood and Brian Geraghty also give some interesting performances – especially Geraghty, who play’s Whitaker’s co-pilot during the plane crash and turns out to be one of the movies quirkier characters. Geraghty played a troubled member of an army bomb squad team in the Oscar winning THE HURT LOCKER. Cheadle and Greenwood both do solid but unmemorable jobs in supporting roles as Cheadle plays a defense attorney and Greenwood plays a friend and ally of Whitaker’s.

FLIGHT is an exhilarating work of film making that is led by the ultimate performance from Denzel Washington. A nearly perfect live action return for Robert Zemeckis and solid script from John Gatins all make FLIGHT one of the better films of 2012 and worth adding to your must see list.


Starring Denzel Washington (AMERICAN GANGSTER,TRAINING DAY) John Goodman (ARGO) , Don Cheadle (IRON MAN 2, HOTEL RWANDA) , Kelly Reilly (SHERLOCK HOLMES), Bruce Greenwood (STAR TREK), and Brian Geraghty (THE HURT LOCKER)

Directed by Robert Zemeckis (FORREST GUMP, BACK TO THE FUTURE) and Written By John Gatins (COACH CARTER, REAL STEEL)


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