Film Review: FLIGHT

Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Written by John Gatins
Starring: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Brian Geraghty, Kelly Reilly

When a plane encounters extreme turbulence during a storm, only the extraordinary maneuvers of flying ace, Whit Whitaker (Washington) saves the day for most of the passengers and crew. We know there is more to the story than that though because just an hour before the plane took off Whit was snorting cocaine to get up to speed after a night of hard drinking. At first, Whit is viewed by the media and colleagues as a hero, but various anomalies begin to arise and an investigation is launched. Whit’s union rep (Greenwood) and a lawyer hired to help him (Cheadle) get more than they bargained for with his insistence on skirting the issues. No one sees himself less clearly than Whitaker.

The deeper story concerns Whit’s alcoholism, which is clearly the driving force in his life. And although there are some overly familiar scenes here, there are also some gut-wrenching ones that take the self-destructiveness of alcoholism to a new level. He doesn’t just drink, he drinks until he is falling down drunk. He drinks when it will clearly sabotage his chances of flying again.

This is a beautifully made film with the best airplane disaster scenes I have ever seen. When the plane finally lands, and I won’t tell you how, the writer or director comes up with an amazingly cinematic way to show its landing. Washington gives an fabulous performance. He never pleads for our sympathy as a lesser actor might. He is Whit Whitaker—a guy who has disappointed everyone in his life almost deliberately. John Goodman gives his usual performance—does he always have to be the coolest guy in the room? But Cheadle, Greenwood, and Kelly Reilly, as a woman trying to kick drugs, are fine in their roles. But truly this is Washington’s movie. Everyone else just steps aside and lets him have at it.

It is too bad Denzel Washington will never play Obama. I can’t think of anyone that would do a better job. Highly recommended.

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