Directed By: Robert Zemeckis
Written By: John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood
The biggest success of Flight is that Robert Zemeckis fits smoothly back into live-action. It’s as if he never left, and also makes one wonder why he stepped away from it for so long. Zemeckis’ return isn’t a perfect one, as Flight does lose a little altitude, but for the most part the ride is mostly smooth without much turbulence.
A lot of that falls on screenwriter John Gatins, who keeps a lot of his story aspects grounded. While a man turning a plane over and flying it mostly safe is a stretch, the reactions of the people and how Gatins writes his dialogue are worthy of praise. Nothing feels out of place or that it shouldn’t belong, everything just feels accurate enough to be believable. Gatins’ chooses to make this more of a character piece about Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), and doesn’t pull any punches about what he has become, even if he’s done a miraculous thing.
Washington shines bright here, getting in line more with the Denzel we know more from Man on Fire and Glory than the one who just collects paychecks. He understands the conflict within Whip, and doesn’t overdo any of the alcoholic aspects to Whip’s character. It’s genuine, but for a seasoned veteran like Denzel, it all seems to come second nature as he just transforms himself into the role.
Kelly Reilly does a fine job as Nicole, another recovering addict who is the other end of the spectrum when it comes to Whip. Reilly’s not a knockout, but she manages the ship well enough to make her presence felt. John Goodman though remains the standout of the supporting cast, as Whip’s best friend Harling Mays. Goodman steals every scene he’s in, and while you want more of him, you feel there’s just enough of him to be satisfied.
Where Flight falters comes in its pacing and overly long third act. While I felt satisfied with the conclusion, the flight path there is all too familiar. It’s tough to fault Zemeckis, who does his best with some fresh ideas in some of the more conventional parts of the story. Yet it takes Flight a little long to make it’s point, and most will be turned off by the direction Whip keeps choosing to take his life. Is it too overly sentimental? Perhaps, but the filmmakers do their best to keep it from being as such.
At the end of the day, Flight is a ride that’s worth taking, and certainly is powerful. It won’t guilt trip you out of the next alcohol binge, nor does it try to portray drinking as a fun thing to partake in. Flight is just an old pilot taking the old plane out for a ride, and seeing what new tricks he can spin on his craft. Said plane just also happens to have a solid engine from John Gatins, and a mighty propeller in the form of Denzel Washington. At worst, Flight just has mild turbulence. At it’s best, Flight is a ride you’ll be glad to have taken.