D: Robert Zemeckis. W: John Gatins. DP: Don Burgess. Starring: Denzel Washington/Bruce Greenwood/Don Cheadle/Brian Geraghty/Kelly Reilly/John Goodman/Nadine Velasquez/Melissa Leo/James Badge Dale.
Amidst James Bond, vampires and hobbits a few films this season will claw their way into the box office and people’s memories. It is difficult to say if Flight will be among them, but it’s never too late for a surprise.
Having toyed with the script for over a decade, screenwriter John Gatins is clearly at his most interesting mark yet. Gatins other work, 2001’s Summer Catch, 2005’s Coach Carter & Dreamer, and 2011’s Real Steel, seem to have a clear inspiration message. And although he has also doctored other scripts along the way, Gatins’ Flight is a testament to his research and personal connection to his story. The age old saying is to always write what you know and Flight succeeds because of this well rooted honesty.
Gatins work also succeeds as it was put in experienced hands with Robert Zemeckis directing and Denzel Washington taking on the lead. Washington’s age and trademark gravitas gives added weight to his characters internal and external struggles. His performance pulsates with varying degrees of intoxication and his likability forces you to be conflicted about his character throughout the film. Washington is supported from all ends by stellar actors, with Kelly Reilly leading the charge as Nicole, an addict he chance meets in the hospital. Their relationship however, never pulls focus, but rather their meeting is one of the best scenes in the film.
The first thirty minutes of the film are tense, yet spectacular as the plane crash is simultaneously brilliant and terrifying. Yet thankfully it is not the whole film. At its core, Flight explores the power of addiction to shape our lives and make choices while deluding us into believing that these choices are of our own making. And just as dynamic as the crash, the conflict within Washington’s Whip makes the film memorable and ultimately enjoyable.
Lastly, as was similar with Lawless earlier in the year, its previews do the film a disservice. Coming off as conventional and too glossy, Flight will probably surprise many purely because it is not the film advertised. All I can hope is that it will work in the films favor and get a wider audience to see something less candy coated.