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

Dabbling In Mediocrity: Bad Teacher [2011] and Red State [2011]

I watched both of these movies recently but couldn’t be bothered to write up full reviews for them.

Bad Teacher [2011]
Bad Teacher [2011]
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Starring Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake.

When it comes to comedies, I have a pretty open mind. Hell, I enjoyed The Hangover 2, despite most critics and blogger extraordinaires hating it. So I had fairly reasonable expectations for Bad Teacher, believing I might enjoy it more than others. Nope, not the case at all. Cameron Diaz’s role as the “bad teacher” is less than desirable. She’s bad all right, making me question how she ever got a teaching gig in the first place, but she’s also a truly unlikable character that should not have been the focus of a movie. I was hoping for some redeeming factors from her, anything at all, but that never happened. Therefore, when “bad” things started happening to her, I could care less. Nothing was resolved in the end, and the movie felt like an utter waste of time.

I laughed a few times, but the jokes were few and far in between, and ultimately forgettable. The movie also wasted the talents of Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel, as both play fellow teachers who don’t do really do much of anything. At least shit/fart jokes were kept to a minimum, and watching Cameron Diaz do her version of a sexy car wash was entertaining. Not one of this year’s finer comedic efforts, that’s for sure. 5/10

Red State [2011]
Red State [2011]
Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman.

Why, oh why, was this marketed as a horror movie? Kevin Smith’s latest flick is unlike anything else he has made, although it is on par with Cop Out in terms of quality. The movie starts off harmless enough in the guise of a horror film, as a trio of teenage boys are lured into a murderous trap by an extremist religious group not unlike the Westboro Baptist Church. From there, the film quickly turns into an irritating propaganda piece that ultimately becomes a boring shootout. It’s all over the damn place, and not in a way that offers much value to the viewer.

Red State is an example of a great concept ruined by a lack of proper vision. Look, I despise the Westboro Baptist Church and their homophobic ways just as much as the next guy, but they could have been the subjects of a proper horror film, not this misguided venture. There are occasional glimmers of light, particularly in the form of Michael Parks and John Goodman. Parks’ role as a rambling lunatic of a preacher is played to villainous perfection, and Goodman is fun to watch as always. It’s a shame that Red State turned out the way it did, because there is a better movie buried in their *somewhere*. 5/10

The Fighter [2010]

The Fighter [2010]

The Fighter [2010]
Directors: David O. Russell
Genre: Biography/Drama/Sport
Language: English
Country: USA

In a year where real life stories adapted to films reign supreme, The Fighter belongs near the top of the list. Based on the true story of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, director David O. Russell’s latest work is so much more than just a boxing movie. Micky (Mark Wahlberg) is a once-promising, but currently struggling, boxer who is frequently stuck in the shadows of his older brother and local legend, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Dicky’s claim to fame is that he once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, and although his career was quickly derailed due to crack abuse (a problem he continues with throughout the movie), he is still respected in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. In essence, this movie is just as much about Dicky as it is Micky, and in fact the entire family is front and center throughout this. The matriarch of the family, Alice (Melissa Leo), is proud of her boys, and she acts as their manager as well. She has a barrage of daughters who will back her up no matter what she does, for better or for worse. When Micky gets a new girlfriend (Amy Adams) who is not afraid to infiltrate this hardheaded family, all hell breaks loose and this shakes the very foundation this clan has always been based on.

So, although some people might be quick to dismiss this as just another boxing movie, it is clearly much more than that. There is a strong overlying portrait of just how important family is, especially in tight-knit groups such as the Wards. Although Micky starts to believe he can succeed with different management and training, he has a hard time leaving his family behind. The Fighter excels at showing the hardships of finally leaving the nest.

Perhaps what I loved the most about The Fighter was its strong attention to detail. I felt like I was right there in the middle of Lowell in the 1990’s, and although at times it wasn’t comfortable, Russell really nailed the life of the lower class, especially the crack house that Dicky often frequented. I also loved how when there was actual boxing, it didn’t feel like your standard Hollywood bullshit. Instead, the old school HBO-style cameras were used to make it look like these were real pay-per-view bouts, and that is just really cool.

Of course, much of the hype and praise about The Fighter is because of its acting, and yeah, the movie wouldn’t be half as good without its stellar cast. Christian Bale continues to impress with his wide variety of roles, this time shedding a bunch of weight in order to play the crackhead boxer, in a respectfully energetic performance. Mark Wahlberg is solid in the lead role, never really taking the next step but still getting the job done admirably. The two main women in the movie, Adams and Leo, are fiery gals who don’t take shit from anyone. Both deliver outstanding performances, especially Adams who stepped out from her shell and played a much “dirtier” character than she has done in the past. All but Wahlberg received Oscar nominations for their work in this film, and all are certainly deserved.

If I were to have one problem with the movie, it would be its questionable soundtrack. While Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and others were effectively played, The Heavy’s “How Do You Like Me Now” was used too often for its own good. Even still, that is a minor fault in an otherwise great film.

I had heard good things about The Fighter beforehand, but I can safely say that the movie exceeded any expectations I had for it. With an outstanding cast, excellent attention to detail, and some intense fight scenes, I have no reservations about putting this up there amongst the greatest sports movies. Highly recommended.

8.5/10