Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Flight - Touchdown

Flight, a marvelous character study of a man coming to terms with addiction, soars from the very first frame and keeps its grip tight on the audience never once taking a false turn and lands safely to its ultimately satisfying destination of a powerful and necessary acknowledgement. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, who is back to making a movie entirely revolving around its central character after a long time, 'Flight' tells the story of an alcoholic who refuses to acknowledge that truth. As with any addict, to understand the existence of a problem is the necessary first step to finding its solution. Whip Whitaker (an amazingly nuanced Denzel Washington), a much experienced commercial airline pilot has had a wild night of drinking with his flight attendant colleague (Nadine Velazquez). He has a flight out to Atlanta in the morning, is obviously drunk but its nothing that a couple of lines of cocaine wouldn't take care of.

His flight carrying 102 souls onboard, departs in extreme choppy weather conditions. His copilot can sense the alcohol reeking off of him, he feels Whitaker is flying too fast in the face of a storm, but the veteran that he is, Whitaker successfully flies his plane out of the weather and hits a smooth and quick one hour ride to Atlanta. Mixing three single serve bottles of vodka into his orange juice will keep him steady on the flight. But then a mechanical failure dooms the plane into one of the most frightening dives I have witnessed onscreen, where all vertical control is lost. It is amazing at such a moment how this heavily drunk and drugged man gathers every bit of his senses and calmly yet urgently guides his terrified fellow crew into action steering them out of the way of certain death. When his plane crash lands into an empty field next to a church ground, six lives are lost.

What follows this action packed initial half hour, defines the movie with its real purpose. Of course we are expecting an investigation, we know that Whitaker though a hero, can technically be in real trouble because of the alcohol and drugs levels which will surely be found in his blood samples. We expect the thrills and the enticing drama that the course of this flight will take. What we are treated to however is unusual and real and makes this movie stand very apart from so many of its genre. Denzel Washington is the face we follow through the entire 140 such minutes of this movie and never do we feel that we have lost this man. As Whitaker, Washington brings a strange pathos into his defiant, worn out alcoholic who refuses to acknowledge this all important fact. He is a heavy drinker, but he is okay. Faced with the possibility of a future in prison, he stubbornly emphasizes on the truth that under the circumstances nobody could have landed that plane the way he did and correctly so. The simulated recreation of that incident tested with multitude of pilots, have resulted in a crash every time. His efficient lawyer Hugh (the ever dependable Don Cheadle) and his old flying partner now union representative Charlie (Bruce Greenwood), do not doubt his heroism but are wary of his defiance to play by the book at a time when the world's focus is on him with a magnifying glass.

Robert Zemeckis, one of the leading names of special effect movies, indeed his last few have been more effects and less soul, does a turn around after quite a while and delves into a riveting character study of a man drowning in his seldom sober world where he is unable to grasp the negatives of the vice that he clings to for support, alienating his now ex wife and teenage son who never knows the man his father is. He finds a mate in the recovering heroin addict Nicole (an effective Kelly Reilly), whose savior he initially acts as but later there is the danger of dragging her back to the very addiction she seeks escape from. Zemeckis is in fine form directing an extremely gifted natural actor. Washington is one of the leading men that has always done Hollywood proud. And when given a chance to spread his wings, he soars. The drunk fallen hero can hardly be called a sympathetic character and there is the easy risk of dramatics here, but Washington smartly side steps the traps and digs within to act primarily with his eyes evoking a nod from his audience . They speak of his battles and when he finally acknowledges his fall, his eyes and the slight shift of facial expression speak more eloquently than any word possibly can.

Flight is a glorious work of introspective filmmaking. There might be many who may expect a lot of action, courtroom drama and the works. There are many of those movies out there. Watch this instead for a work of art which steers away from the obvious and in the process finds itself touching high ground.

Originally Released in 2012
Available on Blu Ray and DVD
Oscar Nominated in the categories of Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and
Original Screenplay (John Gatins) - 2013
My Rating: 4/5

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