Big Screen :: Flight

February 11th 2013

The TV ads for Flight make it look like it’s a Denzel Washington hero movie featuring an epic upside-down plane crash.

I feel obliged to tell you that in reality the plane crash is over in 15 minutes and the next 100 odd are spent in the company of Denzel on a massive bender. He plays the ridiculously named Whip Whitaker, who is a disgraceful drunk but also a pilot so good he can land a busted upside-down plane in a field while nursing a massive hangover, a few fat lines of cocaine and three of those little bottles of Vodka. He even managed to miss some happy clapping churchy types who were out in the field when the upside-down plane nearly fell on them. The movie toys with a couple of difficult questions. Is he a hero or a disgusting monster flying a plane full of people while wasted? Did the booze maybe even help him land the thing? The answers to these questions are, he is both, and maybe the booze did help, but Paramount Pictures in no way condones the use of vodka by pilots attempting to land an upside down plane in a field full of churchgoers.

There is no real story here, just a character and a premise. It is really about addiction and alcholisim. And not the fun Hunter S. Thompson kind. The horrible Leaving Las Vegas kind. But with an added plane crash. If it sounds like your idea of a good time to watch Denzel Washington swirling through a vicious cycle of resisting booze for a bit, giving in and going on an epic bender (sabotaging his defence against criminal charges) then sobering briefly before repeating, rush out an buy youself a ticket to Flight. I got tired of it. Worse, I thought some of Denzel’s drunken behaviour was kind of funny, when I think the movie thought it was pathetic and sad. To be fair though, I did have a few drinks before I watched the thing so I was probably in the wrong headspace.

Denzel plays the same guy he always does, except this time with a drinking problem.

I am tired of seeing him phone this stuff in. I miss the Malcom X Denzel, who gave one of the most amazing performance I have ever seen. Sadly that Denzel is not in Flight. In fact, I predict that the only reason this film will be remembered is that it marks the return of the great Robert Zemekis to live action filmmaking, after spending a decade expensively and painstakingly turning actors into rubbery cartoon freaks with dead eyes in movies like Beowolf. Hopefully he has recovered from that temporary madness and keeps making actual movies with real people in them. With any luck Flight was just a warm up, and he will come up with something a bit better next time.



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