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USA 2012
Directed by
Robert Zemeckis
138 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis: When Captain Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) saves a passenger flight from a disastrous crash he is initially hailed as a hero. But then alcohol is found in his blood and suddenly he is looking at a prison stretch.  

There is a scene in the latter part of Flight that sums up why the film falls short of the possibilities it initially promises. In it, an increasingly harried post-crash Capn. Whitaker approaches flight attendant Margaret (Tamara Tunie) at the funeral of one of their colleagues who did not survive and asks her to lie at an upcoming hearing into his competence. Whilst her injuries are all still visible (as lifelike as would be the case say, a week tops had passed), there is no trace of his (which were worse).  It is indicative of a disjunction between real life and Hollywood gloss that characterizes the film throughout and undermines what could have been The Lost Weekend for our times instead of being just another well-made big studio movie by a director with a C.V. well stocked with well (and not-so-well)-made big studio movies.

Whether it is at a significant structural level in hooking up Capn. Whitaker with a foxy drug addict girlfriend (Kelly Reilly) within a matter of hours of the crash or simply in having a flat screen television in Capn. Whitaker’s grand-daddy’s neglected house Flight is too neatly bound by the conventions of Hollywood mainstream cinema to have much kick as what it is supposed to be  - a how-long-does-it-take-to-wake-up-to-yourself drama and story of personal redemption.

Which is not to say that it is not an entertaining film, it is. Director Zemeckis, a long-time partner of Steven Spielberg and director of Forrest Gump and the Back To The Future trilogy, knows how to tick all the right audience-pleasing boxes.  Flight is a slickly packaged couple of hours at the cinema. The crash is expertly filmed and you can guarantee that it will never make it to any airline’s in-flight program. Needless to say, Denzel Washington gives a sterlingly handsome, if hardly envelope-pushing. performance as a man under fire whilst most of the comic relief comes from John Goodman’s Hunter S. Thompson-ish drug dealer, the best thing that the hard-working actor has done since The Big Lebowski.

Although in essence Flight is about an addictive personality and is commendable for tackling such, its substantial subject matter gets diluted and displaced by the high tone gloss of the production. In its own way it is as much a feel-good film as Forrest Gump, the final scene tying up the narrative threads with a tidiness that only Hollywood could so willingly deliver. 




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