At the Movies - ‘Flight’ - review

Denzel Washington as Captain Whip Whittaker in 'Flight'.
Denzel Washington as Captain Whip Whittaker in 'Flight'.

They say once you have a talent for something you never lose it and this is the perfect way to describe Robert Zemeckis’ latest film ‘Flight’.

It’s been 12 years since Zemeckis last took the helm of hard hitting action drama, ‘Cast Away’, but his skill for making big scenes feel big is even more impressive in ‘Flight’.



‘Flight’ is about how alcoholic drug dependent pilot, Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington - ‘Glory’ and ‘Training Day’), pulls off the impossible and crash lands a passenger jet, saving 96 of the 102 people on board. The big problem is that, Whip, was drunk at the time of the crash but it was because of this that he was able to land the plane and save so many lives.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since Denzel Washington was last nominated, never mind won, an Academy Award, but at 138 minutes of full on Denzel it’s easy to see why his performance in ‘Flight’ has earned him a Best Actor Oscar, nomination.

Washington’s Whip is nothing short of top class and it’s right up there with the positively ruthless Alonzo Harris (‘Training Day’) and the terrifying Frank Lucas (‘American Gangster’).

Whoever came up with saying that life begins at 50 would be right about Denzel Washington because like so many male actors of his generation, the older he gets, the better he gets.

It goes without saying that the film’s central showpiece is the crash landing of SouthJet flight 227 (the production company were careful to make up a name and model for the plane in the movie so that the fictional plane crash did not impact negatively on any real life aviation manufacturers) but it’s Washington’s performance that enables the movie to soar.

Washington depicts with almost unrivalled brilliance a man torn between his addiction to alcohol and drugs and changing his life.

The opening scene is shocking to say the least - a woman’s out of focus breasts appear on screen and she proceeds to get dressed.

A man lies in bed whilst the woman gets ready to leave. The audience is led to believe that the woman is an escort but it soon transpires that she is an air stewardess and the man in the bed is, Whip Whitaker, the captain of a passenger jet.

The pair have spent the night drinking alcohol and taking drugs and in two hours time they have to fly a plane from Orlando to Atlanta.

Whip is pulled from the wreckage of the plane and taken to a hospital in Atlanta. While still unconscious, a sample of Whip’s blood is taken and obviously the results are not good.

The fact that Whip was drunk and the plane crashed is totally coincidental. The reason the plane crashed was because of mechanical failure but it’s only natural that the families of those who perished in the accident will blame Whip.

There’s a bizarrely entertaining scene towards the end of the film when the audience are left wondering whether Whip has finally wised up to his addiction and given it the heave-ho. However, Whip’s friend, Harling Mays (Goodman - ‘The Artist’ and ‘King Ralph’) is summoned and what follows is sure to be remembered as one of the funniest scenes of 2013.

Kelly Reilly stars as Nicole - a woman addicted to heroin and alcohol, with whom Whip meets in the hospital after the accident.

Surrey born Reilly is refreshingly brilliant and her presence is not in any way consumed by the brilliance of Washington - there’s a fine balance between the two and not once do they lose their footing.

‘Flight’ is obviously aiming for business class but unfortunately, at times, it feels more like a no frills airline because of a lacklustre script and some distracting and unnecessary sub-plots.

The first 15 minutes are as gripping as anything you are likely to see this year but after the plane crash ‘Flight’ takes a bit of a nose dive but thanks to the prowess of Zemeckis, Washington and Reilly, it glides back to earth safely.

This week’s cinema ticket was supplied by the Brunswick Moviebowl -

VERDICT: 3/5 - Zemeckis is back to his best and still has the skill and guile to make a big scene feel big. Washington is outstanding and Reilly is refreshingly brilliant. The movie soars at times but because of a lacklustre script and unnecessary sub-plots it feels a little disappointing. Washington is deserving of the nod from the Academy but it doesn’t save the film from feeling more low cost airline than business class, at times.