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Flight: Movie Review

By Darren Bevan

Published: 3:35PM Monday February 04, 2013


Cast: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, Nadine Velazquez
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Director Robert Zemeckis returns to his first live action film since Castaway back in 2000.

In this, which has seen Denzel Washington nominated for an Oscar, Denzel plays alcoholic and addicted pilot, Captain Whip Whitaker. When we first meet him, he's waking up from a heavy night of booze, drugs and sex with cabin crew member Katerina Marquez (Velazquez). Due to fly a little later that morning, Whip does a line of cocaine to remain centred before boarding his flight to Atlanta.

However, after some quite rough turbulence on take off, things seem to be going okay. That is until some time into the flight when the plane suddenly begins to nose dive. With equipment failing and his co-pilot beginning to panic, Whip has no choice but to flip the plane upside down and try and land it. But he can't completely save the day and the plane crashes in a field, killing six of the 102 onboard.

When Whip comes around in hospital, he finds an investigation into what went wrong is underway - and he realises, that despite the plane potentially being at fault, his addiction could squarely come into the spotlight and the blame could land on his shoulders....

Flight is an utterly compelling and non-showy portrait of addiction.

It's also Denzel's film from beginning to end - with a side of chilling plane crash to put you off flying forever. Washington has everything down pat, from a captain reassuring his passengers that everything will be ok while lacing an orange juice with 2 mini bottles of vodka to a scene in a hotel where a mini bar offers temptation and salvation in equal measures, and defies your expectations, it's a performance which is airborne from the minute it begins and stays at a stellar height all the way through, while carefully negotiating the line of agony for his character and anger at his actions.

While Denzel's understated and peerless performance is to be commended, his story is interspliced with the relationship he forms with Kelly Reilly's Nicole, who's recovering from a heroin overdose. It's this pairing that really gives the addiction storyline its edge, with one wanting to turn their life around and another proffering up false promises to do the same. Throw in a great character performance from  John Goodman, as Harling Mays , Whip's dealer and long time friend (whose two brief appearances simply blow anything else away on the screen) and solid support from Cheadle and Greenwood and it's clear Flight is set a course for acting masterclasses, with dry humour peppered therein.

But it's also the slow burn of the story which grips as it begins to play towards its horrifying and perhaps inevitable conclusion as Whip's web of denial begins to wind around him, choking him with the truth of what will have to happen.

All in all, Flight s tands on a towering performance from Washington's portrait of addiction - he's rightly been nominated for an Oscar (after all, Academy loves issues) but it's also a compelling story which avoids outright pity and simply dumps its hero in a situation where he has to take control of his life as it tells a fairly common Hollywood story of detox and life turn-around, but one which is definitely worth boarding.