Denzel Washington gives an Oscar-nominated performance in this drama about an alcoholic airline pilot who spectacularly crash-lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving every soul on board. Now playing nationwide.
Twelve years after he disappeared down the CGI motion-capture rabbit hole with films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, uber-director Robert Zemeckis (Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) returns to live-action filmmaking with this big studio drama about alcoholism. Although the film goes out of its way to shock us with scenes of Denzel Washington snorting cocaine and swilling vodka just before taking control of a passenger jet, there's a formality to the drama here that recalls old fashioned studio filmmaking while having a mild distancing effect, emotionally speaking.
Similarly, there's a self-conciousness to Washington's lead performance that prevented me from ever losing sight of the fact that He Was Acting.
Despite these factors, I still found Flight to be an extremely entertaining watch, if not a wholly empathetic experience. The thrill of watching Zemeckis' technical filmmaking brilliance once again unfold in a realistic setting sustained me throughout, there's a raft of awesome character actors present and the crash scene is worth the price of admission alone.
A degree of crossover between Flight at the post-rescue scenes in Zemeckis' last live-action film Cast Away exists – both feature a man caught up in a media maelstrom following an incident involving air travel. Like in the Cast Away scenes, the grandiosity of the events and emotions in Flight are constantly being articulated by the characters and are rarely left to be inferred by the viewer with any kind of subtlety.
But I believe there is a place for this kind of grand, obvious studio filmmaking, and Flight makes a good argument for the entertainment value of such films.