Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Flight - Movie Review

It has been quite some time since Robert Zemeckis has directed a live action feature film and his return brings a lot of anticipation for a return to a quality standard that has given us such gems as Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Contact. Denzel Washington has also had a very storied career and his turn as the star of this movie also adds to the anticipation that Flight should be something truly special.

You'll notice, I did say "should".

Denzel Washington plays Captain Whip Whitaker who gained fame and notoriety after successfully landing a faulty airplane and saving nearly everyone on board. After a detailed investigation of the crash was completed, his display of skill under extreme circumstances was noted as something that no other pilot could have come close to achieving. The only snag in Whitaker's amazing story is how toxicology reports show that he was both intoxicated and high on drugs during the flight.

After this discovery, the main focus of the story turns to how Whitaker's union brings in attorney Hugh Lang (Don Cheadle) to get him, the union, and the airline all out of trouble by getting the toxicology report removed from the investigation and proving that both the manufacture and maintenance of the airplane were the ultimate causes of the crash. Whitaker himself compounds the problem as he falls victim to his addictions and continues to alienate friends, family, and co-workers.

This is where I can tell you how a movie that should have had a huge emotional punch ends up getting lost in everything its trying to tell. Whitaker has so much to deal with in the movie that none of the plot points are ever given enough time to develop and their resolutions end up falling flat because you're really not that invested in any of it. Of course, there are some very strong performances from Washington, Cheadle, and Kelly Reilly who plays Nicole Maggen, the Captain's newfound love interest and recovering addict, but none of it really matters in a story that just doesn't go anywhere.

From a filmmaking standpoint, one thing that really irritates me is the constant use of extreme close-ups which are meant to really show off the characters emotions, but about a third of the way in, I was very tired of seeing Denzel's face filling the whole screen. Pull the freaking camera back for a minute! I don't know, maybe people like the camera-up-the-nose technique, but I am definitely not a fan. Outside of that, the movie is very well put together from a visual perspective especially at the beginning during the flight and eventual crash.

There's a few other gripes I have with the story, but going into detail would give away plot points so I'll leave those alone. What I will say is that this movie had a lot of potential to be very good with a strong message about dealing with addiction and how it affects not only the addict, but everyone around them as well. What I ended up seeing was a missed opportunity which may be chalked up to Zemeckis being out of the game for so long. Hopefully his future endeavors will raise back up to the level we have grown accustomed to from such a great director.

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