Movie Review: Flight [2012]

Flight [2012]

Flight [2012]
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Genre: Drama
Starring: Denzel Washington, Tamara Tunie, John Goodman, Kelly Reilly, Melissa Leo, Don Cheadle
Running Time: 138 minutes

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an alcoholic and a drug abuser. He sleeps with prostitutes, has a dysfunctional relationship with his ex-wife and son, and parties far more often than he should. He’s also a commercial airlines pilot, and a damn good one at that.

One morning, still drunk after a boozy night with a flight attendant, Whitaker snorts a few lines of cocaine and then heads to the airport, ready to pilot a flight to Atlanta. Despite some concerns from his co-pilot, Whip appears no worse for the wear as he takes control and guides the plane through some rough turbulence during takeoff. Problems arise near the end of the flight when the plane’s hydraulics give out, causing it to take a steep dive in what is certain to be a horrific crash. Only thanks to some quick thinking from Whip, in which he seems to be acting purely on instinct, does the inevitable plane crash manage to happen with minimal casualties. It’s an astonishing feat, and an impressive scene to boot.

Flight [2012]

Whip should be labeled a hero after this, right? After all, he saved nearly a hundred lives due to his swift actions, and most pilots wouldn’t even fathom trying what he did. If only it were that simple.

As they do for every aviation incident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) performs an investigation of the crash and quickly finds out that Whitaker was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine while flying the plane. Now, instead of being hailed for his heroic efforts, Whip is looking at the very serious charges of intoxicated manslaughter, as well as a huge legal case. Could Whip have acted the way he did if he hadn’t been high/drunk at the time? Would all of those lives have been saved? Ultimately, it’s a moot point.

Flight [2012]

What’s interesting is that after the crash, Whip has all sorts of people trying to help him out, yet he keeps going back to the bottle. At the hospital while recovering from his injuries, he befriends Nicole (Kelly Reilly), a woman recovering from a drug overdose. She stands as something of the opposite of Whip — someone willing to go to AA meetings and attempt to change her life. The airplane’s pilot union, represented by Charlie Anderson (Bruce Greenwood), delivers him an attorney (Don Cheadle) to help drop the criminal charges, including all traces of the toxicology reports. With all this support, why won’t Whitaker get help?

That’s the power of addiction. Director Robert Zemeckis nails this issue with devastating effectiveness, even if he sometimes goes about it in rather obvious ways. A bit more subtlety would have been welcome, especially during one laughably on-the-nose scene where Kelly enters her apartment to shoot heroin as the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Under the Bridge” plays. Still, Whip’s descent from hero to rock bottom is masterful, undeniably aided by a stellar performance from Denzel Washington. This is Denzel’s best work in years, and he deserves the accolades he has been receiving. It’s also great to see John Goodman step in and deliver much-needed comic relief in a couple scenes as Whip’s longtime hippie friend/dealer, Harling Mays.

When Flight is brought up in conversation, most will mention Denzel’s excellent work, and perhaps the intensity of the airplane crash, but the bottom line is that this is one of the most compelling looks at addiction in recent years.

8/10

Horror Movie Roundup #3: Slither, An American Werewolf in London, Eden Lake

The first two films in this batch of horror reviews work quite well together, but Eden Lake is definitely an outlier here. Nonetheless, here are my takes:

Slither [2006]
Slither [2006]
A loving tribute to early 80s horror B-movies, Slither tells the tale of a small town that is over-run by a plague of worms that is turning its denizens into all sorts of creepy monsters. There’s a little bit of everything in this horror-comedy, including zombies, blobs and other grotesque freaks, and fans of Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Rooker will get a kick out of this. Rooker, in particular, is as enjoyably creepy as always. The special effects are over-the-top and rather well done, and they enhance the film’s cheesiness. Some jokes fall flat, and the story is full of cliches, but Slither is good for what it is. Worth seeing for fans of the genre. 6/10

An American Werewolf in London [1981]
An American Werewolf in London [1981]
I was pleasantly surprised by this cult classic. When two Americans backpacking through England are attacked by a werewolf, one of them turns into a werewolf himself. The locals refuse to acknowledge the existence of the monsters, so it’s up to the American to figure out a way to put a stop to his own potential killing spree. There’s a lot to like in this film, as John Landis’ script is full of great lines (“A naked American man stole my balloons.”), and the Oscar-winning special effects still hold up today. It’s a fun watch overall, and I’m glad I was finally able to track it down. 7.5/10

Eden Lake [2008]
Eden Lake [2008]
“Relentless” is the perfect term to describe this lesser-known British horror film. When Steve (Michael Fassbender) and Jenny (Kelly Reilly) leave the city for a romantic getaway at a rural lake, their dream weekend goes awry when they run into a group of young hoodlums. Rather than move to a different location, the bull-headed Steve confronts the youths, and it doesn’t take long for things to escalate. The film gets increasingly violent (as evidenced by the image above), and it essentially becomes a game of cat-and-mouse between the kids and the couple. It’s a very bleak, punishing film, and I can’t recall ever being as angry afterward as I was with this. Some of the actions of all involved were questionable and left me frustrated, but there is no denying that this is both well-directed and well-acted. It’s just hard to recommend a film so full of despair. 6/10

Have you seen any of these films? What are your thoughts on them?