Flight (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Denzel Washington, James Badge Dale, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo, Nadine Velazquez, Rhoda Griffis, Tamara Tunie, Brian Geraghty, Garcelle Beauvais, Adam Tomei, Michael Beasley, and Kwesi Boakye.
No other scene in Flight had the electricity and breathlessness of its marque mid-air mishap, how it was handled, or how the situation was resolved. No other scene was supposed to. The crash and its reverberations were a storyteller’s catalyst and a very effective one.
What was so impressive about the crash sequence was three-fold: what was happening in the cockpit, what was happening with the stewardesses and the passengers, and the scene’s CGI.
Within minutes of William “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) taking the captain’s seat, he showed the audience his natural flight ability when he used technology then his eyes to find non-turbulent air to fly through, something his straight-laced, by-the-book co-pilot Ken Evans (Brian Geraghty) would never have done.
When the flight became tumultuous and the passengers’ lives were in danger, Whip was calm, organized, and like Robert Redford, showed that he was a natural in a mid-air crisis situation.
Whip’s piloting instincts were uncanny, think General Zaroff but with pilot’s wings, as was his decision-making. (Spoiler) Using a stewardess, Margaret Thomason (Tamara Tunie), as a makeshift second co-pilot was brilliant. Whip was drunk, high, and the viewer would have never have known it. (End Spoiler) He was completely sure of himself, confident, and kept everyone calm. What was striking about this situation was that if Whip was that good intoxicated, how good would he have been sober?
What happened with the stewardesses during the crash was the horror movie aspect of film. Director Robert Zemeckis never pulled back on the gore but never exploited it either. It was on-screen for cause and effect, nothing more but flashbacks to Michael Crichton‘s Airframe did occur.
The CGI leading up to and during the crash were very impressive, especially the engines burning out and the shots of the plane being inverted. It all added to the crash sequence tapestry beautifully. Unlike CGI heavy films e.g. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, this was one of the sole CGI moments in Flight so all of the CGI artist’s attention was on it and it showed.
All together, it was one of the best scenes in cinema this year, Inception (Inception (2010) Film Review) on a very small scale.
Harling Mays (John Goodman) was almost all of the film’s comedy relief wrapped up into one. The viewer didn’t fully realize what he was until the third act of the film but by then the viewer knew that Whip and Harling were primarily friends, though that friendship most-likely sprang out of their client/provider association.
Many people were in awe of a few of Whip’s personal qualities and his piloting skills. All dreaded his alcoholism and the persona that came along with it. One part of Whip’s personality was magnetic, the other drove people away. Washington was able to show this dichotomy existing in the same body, one struggling against the other, the latter nine-out-of-ten times always winning. Not since Leaving Las Vegas (Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Blu-ray Review) has alcoholism been this vibrantly and morosely portrayed on-screen.
Flight‘s other addiction storyline was presumably the film’s weak link, a tangent that was going no where until it collided with the film’s main plotline in a hospital hallway scene that paused everything else that was going on around it. This scene was designed as a quite character sequence but with a twist: both characters (Whip and Nicole (Kelly Reilly)) saw themselves through the eyes of a third character named Gaunt Young Man (James Badge Dale) whose perception was colored by impending death. Whip and Nicole, in a small way, realized what they had nearly lost from the words Gaunt spoke.
Part of the ending to Flight was what was led up to in Hancock (Hancock (2008) Film Review) but never fully realized or explored in that film, to its dramatic detriment. It was a bittersweet ending but a hopeful one and one that suited the situation and film like a glove.