Consequently, plane crash movies make me nervous.
I swallowed my anxiety a couple of nights ago and rented Flight.
Robert Zemeckis is one of the most unique and innovative filmmakers around. I mean, come on, Back to the Future, Romancing the Stone, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Contact, Cast Away, and the creepy cool animated The Polar Express. That’s quite an eclectic resume of very above average cinema.
I had to see what this visual storyteller would do with a commercial plane crash story.
Turns out, not all that much. And the story, while well-written by John Gatins, is not all that thought-provoking either.
This is a film about the collateral damage of alcoholism.
Washington plays Whip Whitaker, a hot-shot pilot, who parties hard and has his way with the lovelies who bring us our pretzels.
But this guy’s a mess. His ex-wife can’t stand the sight of him and his teenaged son won’t speak to him. He’s not just an alcoholic, he’s an arrogant drunk with no soul.
When a plane he is piloting loses control and nose dives, he manages a maneuver that no other pilot would have dared try, and miraculously glides the aircraft to a crash landing in an open field. Instead of “There were no survivors,” the body count limited to six, including his recent flight attendant fling, played memorably by Nadine Velazquez.
The narrative conflict of Flight asks the simple question: Was Whitaker’s drug and alcohol consumption responsible for the crash or were his heroics responsible for saving lives?
To the learn the answer you will have to rent the film.
What I can tell you is that Denzel Washington is at the very top of his acting game, delivering a performance void of ego.
Washington’s ability to portray heart breaking vulnerability buried beneath his immeasurable star charm is a thing of beauty.
The moment he comes to in his hospital bed and learns the details of the plane crash is pure gold.
He has won two Oscars for his talents (Glory, Training Day), and with a nomination now for Flight, has been recognized four other times. He is a long shot to say the least – the competition stiff – but he is still without a doubt one of the most dynamic and consistently honest actors in the world; and for that reason Flight is worth all the anxiety it may cause.