By Jake Peffer
Denzel Washington is one of very few actors who consistently puts out good performances with each movie he makes. Not every one of his movies is great but Denzel is always great and sometimes even makes the movie better because of his performance. With Flight he teams up with legendary director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) for the first time in his career.
Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker (Washington), an airline pilot who just can’t seem to stay away from alcohol and drugs. While piloting an airplane from Orlando to Atlanta complications cause the plane to go down. Thankfully, Whitaker is a skilled pilot and he is able to land the plane in a field causing only a few casualties, whereas had he not landed it the way he did more lives could have been lost. Whip becomes one of the biggest stories in the world and is seen as a hero, but when the toxicology report shows he was drunk and high on cocaine during the flight, he discovers he could be held responsible for the deaths caused during the crash. As his life spends out of control he deals with it the only way he knows how to, by drinking.
After spending the last ten years or so making animated movies, Robert Zemeckis returns to live action with a bang. Teaming up with writer John Gatins (Real Steel, Coach Carter), the two are able to bring a very intriguing character study to the big screen. Add in another Oscar-worthy performance from Denzel Washington and I think it’s safe to say that this is one of the best movies of the year.
There are a lot of scenes that are hard to watch here, especially the plane sequence. After watching Flight you’ll never want to fly again. The movie takes you deep inside the world of alcoholism and I think it handles the subject quite well. We watch as Whip pounds down drink after drink and yet they make you like him so much that every time he picks up another drink, you’re yelling at him to stop like you’ve known him for years. You get a realistic look at what an alcoholic goes through and just how hard it is to stop, even when it’s ruining your life. Gatins’ writing and Denzel’s performance definitely make you feel for this character and that’s the main thing you need to have in a character study such as this.
Denzel isn’t the only great actor we get here as they have brought in a great supporting cast. Don Cheadle plays Whip’s lawyer and as usual Cheadle gives another good performance. Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Andersen, one of Whip’s friends, gives a good performance too although it felt like his character could have easily been taken out of the movie. A part of the story I didn’t expect was the relationship between Whip and Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a woman who also has an addiction that he meets after his crash. Reilly gives a great performance. She and Washington really sell their relationship. Easily stealing the show is John Goodman who plays Whip’s supplier. He only appears in two scenes but they are both hilarious and Goodman does a great job of playing a really bizarre character.
Although hard to watch at times, great direction from Robert Zemeckis and a sure to be nominated performance from Denzel Washington help Flight soar to great heights.