Review: FLIGHT (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 18 February 2013

Review: FLIGHT (2012)


It's hard to believe that Robert Zemeckis' last live-action movie was Tom Hanks' survival drama CAST AWAY. And that was like 12 years ago back in the year 2000. Ever since then, Zemeckis devoted all his time exploring a series of motion-capture animations with varying degree of success including 2004's THE POLAR EXPRESS, 2007's BEOWULF and 2009's A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Now I'm personally glad that Zemeckis has finally returned to his first live-action movie with FLIGHT. At the first glance, his much-anticipated comeback seems like a guaranteed success: FLIGHT has a knockout, Oscar-worthy premise about a disgraced airline pilot who has miraculously landed a heavily-malfunctioned aircraft safely onto the ground, only to find himself being haunted by his own personal demons. Then there's the ever-reliable Denzel Washington in the lead role. And of course, the spectacular opening 20-minute which featured one of the most frighteningly believable plane crashes ever seen in a movie.

In the opening act, Robert Zemeckis starts out well with the introduction of Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), who wakes up in a hotel room at the American Value Suites while a comely nude woman (Nadine Velazquez) is getting dressed beside the bed. Then we see Whitaker overcomes his morning hangovers by downing an alcohol and snorting a line of cocaine on the coffee table, before he gets dressed up in his flight uniform and heads out of the hotel room. Whitaker turns out to be an airline pilot captain for SouthJet Air and he's actually a couple of hours away from his latest flight, Orlando to Atlanta. Once on board, he still have time to sneak three miniature liquors into his orange juice. Everything seems to be under control, even though Whitaker and his co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) are facing ugly storm ahead of their bumpy take-off. But thanks to Whitaker's quick-minded expertise, he insists they fly through at an overwhelming speed in order to break above the dark clouds. They successfully overcome the danger zone. Then comes an unexpectedly severe mechanical breakdown that sends the plane into a nosedive. Instead of getting all panic, Whitaker quickly made decision by inverting the plane to level out their descent and subsequently forced to crash-land in the field somewhere beyond a church. What Whitaker has done is miraculously enough to keep everyone alive except for the unfortunate six casualties.

So far, so good and credit goes to Zemeckis for the sheer intensity he has successfully created during the opening act. For a while there, the movie is truly an exhilarating cinematic experience.

However, once Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins takes a far different direction by shifting the story entirely into an old-fashioned addiction drama, everything starts to become bumpy. As a movie that deals with alcoholism, it's hardly as good as THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) or even LEAVING LAS VEGAS (1995). Problem is, John Gatins' screenplay is awfully cliched and too melodramatic. At 135 minutes, the movie also feels overlong with too many heavy-handed moments involving Whitaker's on-and-off battle against alcoholism. The movie spirals further in the preposterous third act involving Whitaker's federal hearing with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board).

Cast-wise, FLIGHT is actually blessed with a strong ensemble that deserved a few praises. Denzel Washington is coolly charismatic and gritty in his impressive turn as Whip Whitaker. As Whip's love interest, Kelly Reilly is stunning and remarkable in her fearless performance as the heroin addict, Nicole. Both Bruce Greenwood, who plays Whitaker's best friend and Don Cheadle who plays Whitaker's lawyer, are equally fine while John Goodman is top-notch in a perfectly quirky and laid-back performance as Whitaker's drugs dealer. 

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