AFF 2012 Review: FLIGHT

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

An airline pilot displays astounding expertise and grace under extreme pressure when he manages to crash land his plane,saving lives in the process.  Branded a hero, Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) doesn’t quite know how to handle the exuberant praise he receives.  Then, the airline investigates further into the matter and the whole truth reveals something even more astonishing.  Whitaker’s personal demons and issues come to light and the once lauded pilot must make a crucial decision in this major turning point of his life.

This film marks the return of director Robert Zemeckis to a live action, more adult oriented feature film and the results are quite satisfying.  Zemeckis had a three picture run of animated/motion capture movies (A Christmas Carol, Beowulf, The Polar Express) geared more for younger audiences. In what is his darkest and most mature film, Zemeckis does some outstanding work here using his own special effects talents and those of his truly gifted technical crew to create one of the most amazing and intense scenes captured on camera.  The entire plane landing sequence will be long remembered and applauded.  It seriously is a marvel to behold.

After this incredible scene, Zemeckis, writer John Gatins and actor Denzel Washington delve deep into the Whittaker character and his descent into darkness, but still manage to mix in humor beautifully.  I refuse to reveal too much about what plagues Whip Whittaker and what he goes through, and I sincerely hope that trailers, television spots and other reviews don’t spoil it either.  I went into this movie not knowing what direction this film would take and I was wonderfully surprised.  Knowing too much about this movie will definitely lessen the impact.

Denzel Washington deserves at least another Oscar nomination for his work here.  His portrayal of Whip Whittaker is utterly devastating.  If he does not get nominated, then something is seriously wrong with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but that’s probably a discussion for another day.  Another possible nomination could go to Kelly Reilly for her supporting role as Whip’s friend Nicole. I would love to see her nominated in the supporting actress category.  The film also features fine performances by Bruce Greenwood and Don Cheadle as two company men trying to salvage Whip’s reputation and protect the interests of the airline.  The most incandescent appearance in the film comes from John Goodman, though.  As Harling Mays, a special friend to Whittaker, Goodman only has a few scenes but quite simply rules these moments. He brings some uncomfortable and applaud worthy humor to the limited time he has on screen.  I’m not sure if he deserves a nomination or win, but then again, people with smaller roles have won in the past.

My only gripe about the movie probably is the fact that Whittaker’s issues and troubles don’t really bring anything new to cinema.  The reveal came as a surprise, but once this twist comes to light, the film seemed to follow a slightly repetitive pattern.  That is until the climax and conclusion which Zemeckis, his cinematographer Don Burgess, and editor Jeremiah O’Driscoll shoot and cut extraordinarily.  So, my recommendation is to avoid all spoilers.  Change the channel whenever a TV spot comes on.  Don’t see the trailer and go see this movie before too many people begin talking about it.  Zemeckis has returned to live action film in a very profound and affecting way.




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