Denzel Washington in “Flight.”

“Flight” stars Denzel Washington as Whip Whitaker, an airline pilot with drug and alcohol addictions.  The film is insightful, honest and thoughtful with characters that are complex and who earn our empathy.  While, at points, the film, in lesser hands than those of director Robert Zemeckis, could have become heavy handed and preachy, it never does.

“Flight” has a very fine supporting cast which includes Don Cheadle, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood, Kelly Reilly and Tamara Tunie.  I especially like Cheadle.  Whenever he is in a film I know that I am in good hands. 

Here, Cheadle plays Hugh Lang, an attorney representing Whitaker. Following an airplane crash in which Whitaker makes a next to impossible landing that winds up killing four of his passengers, out of a full airplane, he is being investigated because evidence of alcohol and cocaine are found in his blood.  The film’s central issue revolves around the idea of prosecuting a man whose clear thinking and incredible skill saved the lives of so many passengers. However there is a lot more to “Flight” than just a legal drama or an examination of ethics, although these issues are strongly present.

“Flight” is the story of people at the end of their tethers.  In addition to Whitaker, Kelly Reilly’s character Nicole has her own issues with drug addiction.  In one very telling scene Kelly has to leave her apartment.  She packs all of her things into her car, knowing full well that the car does not run.  It is a scene of a character with truly nowhere to turn.  While watching “Flight” I sarcastically thought, “OK, cue the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting scene.”  Yes, Whitaker does eventually wind up at an AA meeting, but this does not provide the simplistic resolution that a made for TV movie would have chosen.  His journey is a much more complex one in which we have to wonder if those trying to help Whitaker, although well intentioned, are really working in his best interests.  The film’s conclusion is thought provoking.

For a mainstream movie with well known actors “Flight” is unusual.  I am not saying that mainstream films cannot be thoughtful and introspective.  However, when one considers the more action oriented films that Washington has chosen lately such as “Safe House” (2012), “Unstoppable” (2010) and “The Book of Eli” (2010) and the unfortunate remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123” (2009), it is nice to see this fine actor in a quieter role where we can see another side of his talent.

“Flight” director Robert Zemeckis, 2012,

Paramount Picture, 138 minutes, Rated R


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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