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2012 | 138 min | R | 2.39:1



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User reviews

1 user review

Movie appeal



Theatrical release date

 02 November, 2012
 01 February, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from Flight Blu-ray

Flight Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, November 1, 2012

Robert Zemeckis took a detour in his directorial career in 2004, electing to build a motion capture industry with the Christmas fable, “The Polar Express.” “Beowulf” and “A Christmas Carol” followed soon after, and it seemed that the man behind “Back to the Future,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Cast Away” would never return to the realm of live-action moviemaking. Although I was a huge admirer of the ambitious mo-cap movement, “Flight” is first effort from Zemeckis with a distinctly human touch in 12 years, and I missed this side of the helmer. Of course, “Flight” is the complete opposite of a computer animated romp, investigating a grim side to the human condition in a manner that eschews heroism and sympathy, tearing apart a broken man for 135 painful minutes, inspecting every last arrogant act of self-destruction.

A functional alcoholic and cocaine user, Whip (Denzel Washington) is also an airplane pilot who’s managed to maintain his professionalism while his addiction grows. During a routine trip from Orlando to Atlanta, Whip’s hot-shot flying manages to bring the plane out of weather-related issues, stunning his copilot, Ken (Brian Geraghty), who doesn’t know what to make of his commander’s subtle display of inebriation. Mid-flight, equipment failure pushes the plane into a violent tailspin, forcing Whip to make careful choices under extreme pressure, with his expertise managing to bring the aircraft crashing down onto an empty field, killing six of the 104 people onboard. Branded a hero, Whip looks to elude the spotlight, increasing his drinking to ease his conscience. When an investigation into the near-disaster is opened, lawyer Hugh (Don Cheadle) is put on the case, hoping to expunge Whip’s shocking toxicology report from the record before jail time is considered. During the examination process, Whip befriends Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a junkie looking to clean up her act, also encouraging the steely pilot to consider a life of sobriety before he completely unravels.

“Flight” is perhaps the most severe effort to date from Zemeckis, working from a disturbing screenplay by John Gatins. Inspired by true events, though fictionally blurred to keep its direct inspiration a mystery, “Flight” asks the audience to sit and watch Whip poison himself over the extended run time, observing a man who cannot control himself despite a vocation that demands the sharpest of instincts. The twist of “Flight” is how Whip conducts himself under the influence, with the screenplay putting forth the idea that the character is perhaps at his best somewhere between a boozy bottom and a coked-out high. The material challenges the viewer with a stunning opening act, studying Whip’s concentration in the face of disaster, using his experience and training to pull his plane out of danger through unorthodox means, bewildering his flight crew. Sold with impressive visual effects, a pounding sound design, and tense editing, the crash scenario is exposed in full right at the top of the picture, introducing Whip as a dangerously fearless man, with the source of such bravery gradually investigated over the rest of the movie.

Whip is a frightening character. He’s a slave to his demons, yet doesn’t let on that he has a problem. Perhaps he’s a better man under the influence, a point “Flight” is careful to introduce. This is no celebratory picture, but a bleak journey of uncontrollable impulses and vicious habits, following Whip into his public abyss as his dirty secrets come back to haunt him, calling into question years of righteous service. Gatins embraces the complexity of the character, sustaining Whip’s humorlessness and irritation to probing questions, while keeping the man constantly drinking, smoking, and scoring coke off pal Harling (a flamboyant John Goodman) to lubricate his daily adventures, which consist of hiding from the press and denying his guilt. Indeed, Whip is insistent that mechanical failure is the only reason for the crash, a pat answer “Flight” treats enigmatically. Although Whip was drunk, the script is clever enough to leave the resolution of the blame game in the air until the end of the feature, working the frazzled man to a point where he begins to believe his own lies, clinging to any answer that will keep him out of jail.

The writing also presents a question of divine intention, with spirituality a major force of “Flight.” With a disaster largely avoided, a question of God’s will is raised, finding Ken a particularly fervent believer of heavenly guidance -- another element that threatens to absolve Whip of his sins before he accepts his crime. It’s a tantalizing discussion that’s repeated throughout the picture, with those unable to process Whip’s loaded ability falling back on the comfort of their faith to help dismiss the cruel reality of the situation.

Although he’s played numerous malevolent characters, rarely has Washington been so nakedly destructive as he in is “Flight.” Whip is a womanizer, an addict, and man who can barely contain his ego, yet the actor finds riveting human notes to play, locked on the pilot’s whirring mind as his routine is threatened from all sides. It’s masterful work from a talent who’s always been content to rest on his laurels, carrying a bold sense of disturbance about Whip that’s captivating to watch, even when the man hits rock bottom. A confident supporting cast fills in the gaps with memorably cracked personalities, yet attention is always pulled back to Washington and his full-bodied portrayal of man convinced he has two steady hands secured on all his problems.

“Flight” gets out of Zemeckis’s control on a few occasions (soundtrack selections are cringingly obvious), and there’s not enough to Reilly’s role to make her critical to the story, with scenes shared between Whip and Nicole the weakest of the picture. Also missing is the director’s visual mobility, finding “Flight” relatively tame and focused, free of all the mo-cap elasticity that’s delighted the helmer over the last decade. However, there’s such a darkness to the material, Zemeckis’s restrain is understood, possibly afraid to candy what’s truly a horrifying tale of self-preservation hiding inside a glass coffin of nobility.

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, Bruce Greenwood, Melissa Leo
Director: Robert Zemeckis

» See full cast & crew

Flight, Forum Discussions

Last post
Flight of the Conchords Season 2! 19 Jan 25, 2009
Alpha Flight movie 10 Jul 13, 2013
Flight of the Navigator *Remake* 10 Nov 28, 2012
No More Flight of the Conchords 9 Dec 14, 2009
Flight of the Navigator 2 Dec 17, 2012
The Art of Flight 0 Feb 18, 2011

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