Flight (2012) Directed by Robert Zemeckis. With Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo and Don Cheadle.
On the face of it, the director of Back to the Future and Forrest Gump might seem an ill fit for a film about combating alcoholism, but Robert Zemeckis’ Flight is an admirable piece of work that cleverly uses the inherent drama of a plane crash to kick-start a very personal tale of a troubled airline pilot, played by Denzel Washington.
As ever, Washington commands presence in the central role of Whip Whitaker, a likeable man whose internal struggle following estrangement from his ex-wife and son quickly becomes the central focus of the story. Washington’s ability to transcend his movie-star status is a testament to the depths he’s able to reach here.
If there’s a slight downside, it’s the way in which John Goodman’s drug dealer is portrayed through both use of music and comedy, as the ‘cool’ character. For a film that’s trying hard to make a serious point about the destructiveness of addiction, Goodman’s cartoon-ish presence threatens to undermine some of that credibility.
Zemeckis’ renowned ability to portray spectacle comes to the fore during the crash sequence, which is all at once thrilling and terrifying. While it’s clear that Flight will never be the perfect in-flight experience, it’s nevertheless a sobering story with much to say. Thanks to Washington’s central turn, it soars higher than you might expect, shining a sharp light on how much blind trust we (the general public) place in each other on a daily basis. 4/5